3 Keys to Scratching Millennials’ Itch for Purpose

Millennials crave workplace cultures of meaning and purpose

My daughter is a Millennial, and I remember when she was evaluating her job offers after graduation. Connection to the company’s culture and purpose was a primary factor in her decision process.

She’s not alone.

Last week, I introduced you to an article by bestselling author Dan Schawbel. He shares 10 ways Millennials are impacting the work landscape, and one of them is that Millennials choose meaningful work above everything else.

That’s a big statement, but I agree: Millennials crave purpose. So as I continue my series on where my views on Millennials and leadership intersect with Schawbel’s, let’s look at how transparent leaders can help create a culture of meaning.

Here are three ways we as leaders can better navigate our organization’s direction, respect our employees’ cultural priorities, and honor our experience and training:

Acknowledge the disconnect

As Schawbel points out, millennials “want to know that the work they are doing is having an impact on their co-workers, on their manager and on the company at large.” In fact, 63 percent of Millennials want their employers to contribute to social or ethical causes they feel are important.

Unfortunately, managers and employees aren’t always on the same page. “Thirty percent of Millennials say that meaningful work is important versus only 12% of managers,” according to a study by UNC’s Kenan Flagler Business School. The study also reports that “only 28% of Millennials feel that high pay is important versus 50% of managers.”

Make it personal

If you have managers who don’t find meaningful work as important as their Millennial employees, overcome their resistance to purpose by making it personal.

Jonathan Becker of Fortune suggests asking hesitant executives, “What’s the best job you ever had?” “What’s the best place you ever worked?” “What made it so great?”

Their answers give you the opening to say, “That is culture. And that is what we can intentionally create in every part of our company.”

Blend and adapt

Cultivate a culture that blends your values with the majority. Great cultures like Google, REI, and Zappos celebrate values shared by leaders and employees. It’s up to you to understand what these values are and recognize them through your leadership behavior.

Until next week’s post, think about what values you exhibit in your company and ask yourself if they’re relevant to Millennials. If not, what adjustments can you make for a generation that will soon be the majority in your company?

Continue the series with Part 1, Part 3, Part 4.

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