I was sitting in my conference room a few weeks ago on the receiving end of a presentation being given by a group of incredibly energetic and talented interns who represent the millennial workforce. Their goal was to influence the outreach efforts of the Values Institute. During their presentation I had an overwhelming deja vu moment. I was struck by the uncanny similarities between their values and my own as they relate to our collective sense of purpose for our work.
It was at that moment that I realized the responsibility I had, as the leader of an organization, to not simply profess values but rather, to live them out. You see, this new wave of workers, who will represent 50% of the workforce by 2020, thrive on purpose. In fact, they align themselves with companies that demonstrate an authentic sense of purpose that transcends product or service offerings.
These new workers want to be part of something bigger and when given the option will support brands that do good, for their employees and the communities they serve. I can honestly say that securing my own first job had far less to do with finding my purpose than it did with having spending cash for the weekend.
The numbers behind their behavior are staggering. Recent studies indicate that 73% of millennials will try a new product if it supports a cause while another 26% will pay more for a brand that demonstrates a social conscience. If you want to attract millennials to your workforce or secure them as customers there are a few simple ground rules that apply. I'm happy to report that these rules of engagement closely align with the guiding principles of our own work at the Values Institute.
First, they value transparency or candor--communicating in an honest, authentic manner. If you have good news to share about a community involvement initiative or internal employee engagement program then take the opportunity to share it. On the other hand, if you're facing challenges don't shy away from sharing that as well. Patagonia is a brand that has seen enormous, positive response from candidly exposing the carbon footprint that followed raw materials from around the world to the finished products on the shelves. They not only openly shared this information, they created a website devoted to allow consumers to "count the cost" involved in their purchase decisions.
Second, millennials live their lives on multiple screens--computers, tablets and smartphones, so having a virtual presence is essential if your brand wants to engage with them in a meaningful way. And by engage I mean creating a dialog not an information dump. And remember, it's important to share the story of your brand. Its journey. What it values. Product information is fine but this new workforce is more interested in understanding your desire to do good rather than your desire to make money.
Finally, it's critical to take time to build a relationship vs. grabbing a quick transaction. Find a way to create an emotional connection. What are the issues that both you and millennials can agree on? Increased value comes from a sharing of values. Demonstrate that you're in this relationship for the long haul.
If you take time to listen, you're likely to find, much like I did, that the pursuit of purpose transcends generations.