The Millennial Loyalty Challenge

February 29, 2016


Tim McClimon

According to a recent study conducted by Deloitte (The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey), Millennials express little loyalty to their current employers and many are planning their exits. Based on a survey of 7,700 Millennials representing 29 countries who are employed full-time in predominately large, private sector organizations, this "loyalty challenge" is driven by a number of a factors:

  • Millennials feel underutilized and believe they're not being developed as leaders. They continue to express positive views of businesses' role in society; they have softened their negative perceptions of corporate motivation and ethics; and cite a strong alignment of values. However, Millennials feel that most businesses have no ambition beyond profit, and there are distinct differences in what they believe the purpose of business should be and what they perceive it to currently be. Millennials often put their personal values ahead of organizational goals, and have shunned assignments (and potential employers) that conflict with their beliefs.

Millennials (those individuals born after 1982) have recently pushed past other generations to be the largest share of many labor markets, and a number now hold senior positions in companies. Accordingly, Millennials are no longer the leaders of tomorrow - they are the leaders of today - and thus their views take on added weight for CSR professionals who are often charged with the responsibility of mobilizing and engaging their leaders and employees in community service.

Some other interesting findings from the Deloitte study:

  • During the next year, if given the choice, one in four Millennials would quit his or her current employer to join a new organization or to do something different. That figure increases to 44 percent when the time frame is expanded to two years. By the end of 2020, two of every three respondents hope to have moved on, while only 16 percent of Millennials see themselves with their current employers a decade from now.
  • More than six in ten Millennials (63 percent) say their "leadership skills are not being fully developed." 71 percent of those likely to leave their current employers in the next two years are unhappy with how their leadership skills are being developed - fully 17 points higher than among those intending to stay beyond 2020.
  • Almost nine in ten (87 percent) believe that "the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance," but Millennials continue to hold business in high regard: three-quarters (73 percent) maintain that it has a positive impact upon wider society. This figure is unchanged since 2013.
  • Millennials also believe businesses are behaving in an increasingly responsible manner. 58 percent agree that businesses "behave in an ethical manner" (up from 52 percent last year), and 57 percent agree that "their leaders are committed to helping improve society" (up from 53 percent in 2015).
  • Seven in ten Millennials believe their personal values are shared by the organizations they work for. This rises to 80 percent among the most senior Millennials and 82 percent for those intending to stay for at least another five years. But, 56 percent have "ruled out ever working for a particular organization because of its values or standard of conduct."
  • There are key areas where Millennials believe businesses' sense of purpose should be far greater than is currently the case: improving the skills, income, and "satisfaction levels" of employees, creating jobs, and impacting positively on users of their goods and services.
  • Despite some reports that Millennials desire to be famous, have a high profile on social media and accumulate great wealth, the survey respondents have more traditional goals: they seek a good work/life balance, they want to own their own homes, they desire a partner for life, and they strive for financial security that allows them to save enough money for a comfortable retirement.

For CSR professionals, the good news is that Millennials are not anti-business and many believe that the corporations where they work share their personal values. They feel strongly that companies need to go beyond a short-term profit motivation and ensure that they are behaving ethically and responsibly. However, many also feel that their leadership skills are not being fully developed, and they are seeking ways to both advance their careers and make a difference in the world.

One of the ways that American Express has met this challenge is through our Serve2Gether Consulting program, an ongoing initiative that pairs teams of American Express employees with nonprofit organizations who have specific, practical needs in areas like strategic planning, competitive marketplace analysis and digital marketing. Since the program's creation in 2012, over 800 employees have provided over 32,000 hours of pro bono consulting help valued at $4.8 million to 175 organizations in eight countries. While this kind of pro bono assistance is of tremendous help to nonprofit organizations, we have also found that employees feel that it aids in their own leadership development and 100% of them say it is something that they would recommend to a colleague.

 If you have a question or comment, please follow me on Twitter at @timmcclimon and start a conversation there. Thanks for reading and sharing this blog posting with friends and colleagues.

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