Business Leaders Discuss Millennials’ Impact in the Workplace

Earlier this month we asked a group of business leaders from a variety of industries, to share their thoughts on our blog post, 10 Things Millennials Look for in an Employer.

We asked these leaders whether they think it’s just millennials who want to work for organizations that makes positive impacts on society, or if all generations are starting to feel this way. The responses we received were passionate, insightful and extremely varied.

The Millennial Effect

Jean Bennington Sweeney, the Chief Sustainability Officer at 3M shared insights from her own organization, saying, “Whenever I talk about our purpose-driven business efforts and ambitions, I get very positive responses from people of all generations – both inside and outside our company. In my opinion millennials were perhaps the catalyst in bringing this expectation and conversation forward, but people of all ages are both inspired and motivated by their individual contributions positively impacting the world."

Kelli Greene of Plantronics also says that millennials are shaping the workforce, saying, “I believe millennials are re-igniting the social responsibility fire in all those they encounter!”

Anita Whiteley of Crawford & Company however believes that desire for purpose-driven work is unique to millennials. “Other generations have come around, but for the most part they incorporate social responsibility into their organization because of reputational risk and the positive light it brings to a company." She also noted that, “millennials, overall, have very little money to give away (because of high debt) so they give back through volunteerism whereas senior employees are the monetary donors.”

Laurie Burgess from United Natural Foods said, “I am a millennial, and I fit the bill – I majored my MBA in CSR and have been seeking an impactful career path.” She also says, “I think the question is, can careers in mission driven roles also balance millennials’ financial objectives?”

A Changing Business Mindset

Joe Wheeler, a CSR associate at Dropbox and manager of Dropbox for Good, shared an interesting survey from Net Impact that shows the importance that purpose and making an impact at work are to millennials and college students. He also commented, “I think it’s important to everyone, but an increasing priority for younger generations.”

Michele Wong, community outreach coordinator at New Balance also talks about how her company has made positive business part of its culture. “I want to and am fortunate enough to work for a company whose values align with my own. New Balance prides itself on its culture and rightfully should. Community and giving back is ingrained in our culture whether it be through financial grants or volunteerism.”

Jamie Cook, director of renewable energy projects at Maui Electric, also thinks that more generations are adopting this mind set. He says, “aspirational consumers are also aspirational employees. People want to feel like what they are doing matters in this world of increasingly negative media messages, corporate scandals and ineffectual governments.”

Steve Kooy, global sustainability manager at Haworth says, “Overall, I agree, I think previous generations were looking for meaning when they entered the workforce too.” He shares some interesting observations from managing millennials, saying, “they are also more inclined to plan for 5-10 years of working before looking at a family. Therefore, their meaning in life is via work. Most other generations had family planning at the forefront, therefore making money early set them up for a good family life later. The delayed family mindset adds to flexibility and seeking fulfillment via the job, in my opinion.”

Paul Campbell, director of sustainability/green leadership at Sears Holding Corporation reflects on his career path and says, “I’ve seen many senior leaders join SHC over the last 11 years I’ve been with the company, and one thing they all have in common is their reasons for joining the company. Most of these reasons are found in your list, so it’s not just a 'millennial thing' these days."

Joseph Doolan, the U.S. head of environmental affairs at TD Bank said it succinctly, “This is the bar for all, and if organizations don’t meet the bar, they will not succeed into the next decade.”

Do you think that people of all generations want to work for a purpose-driven business?