Recently, I was skimming an articleabout how company managers can prepare Millennials to take on leadership roles in business. The piece addressed the looming explosion of Gen Y-ers in the workplace – they’re projected to comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025 – and noted that this is a generation with an entrepreneurial bent, with an estimated 70% of young professionals around the world aspiring to be their own boss. So what, the writer wondered, can business leaders do to make sure that that Millennials (anyone born between 1980 and 2000) are prepared to take the reins of their companies?
What caught my eye was the usual pattern that I notice with almost any article that tackles employee engagement, retention or training. That is, every proposed solution could be at least partially addressed by leveraging corporate philanthropy.
- Provide them with purpose. Millennials in particular crave meaning in their jobs. They want to feel connected to their work and to the company’s mission.
Commitment to one’s work gives all employees a sense of purpose, and companies are learning that an excellent conduit to this feeling is involvement in cause. Seventy-one percent of employees who participated in an LBG Associates survey about employee volunteer programs indicated that they felt more positive about their company as a result of these programs. Many business leaders find that purpose-driven work through cause is linked to boosted morale and productivity, and organizations are realizing that if you give Millennials the opportunity to give back, they’ll have a renewed appreciation for the importance of their jobs.
- Act as a mentor. Gen Y thrives on feedback and positive recognition. Mentorship support can help them feel guided along a path towards their goals.
The opinions and recognition of their friends and superiors are important to Millennials, who seek attention through feedback and praise from people who are important to them. That’s why volunteer programs that are led at the top of the corporate food chain – and which offer opportunities for mentorship support in the field – are a superb channel to create an engaged corporate culture that nurtures future talent.
A 2004 Lloyd Morgan survey of 50,000 employees showed that by increasing employees’ engagement levels, organizations can expect an 87% reduction in employees’ probability of departure. Millennials want to take pride in their work and company, and when they do they tend to stay and build towards the long-term.
- Give them responsibility. Millennials have a “can-do” attitude and want to feel challenged in the workplace. No to micromanagement; yes to letting them run with an idea.
Ambitious and achievement-oriented, the Millennial search for meaning and learning extends to their work. They seek out new challenges and have high expectations of their employers. This group is not afraid to question authority.
That’s why an employee volunteer program is so ideal for this group. An EVP program allows workers to expand skills, build upon strengths and connect with their community. Indeed, 90% of human resourcesprofessionals say that pro-bono volunteering is an effective way to develop leadership skills. Volunteering can also develop soft skills that are instrumental in a business environment, such as problem solving, mentoring and communications. These programs are excellent breeding grounds for new talent, allowing a neutral space for employee training and growth at a relatively low cost to the company.
- Treat them with the same respect you expect. Millennials sometimes get a bad rap for a sense of entitlement. But they bring many unique skills to the table, and they deserve your respect.
A Boston Consulting Group study found that Millennials are concerned about big social issues and believe that involvement in causes is a fundamental part of life. The study identified a variety of traits that characterize this generation, including:
- Technologically savvy. Even though Millennials grew up with technology and are constantly plugged in, they also want to connect and share experiences offline and in person.
- Team-oriented. This generation grew up in play groups, playing team sports or other group activities. They understand the value of teamwork, so Millennials want to be involved and make a difference. They believe that a collective action can change the world and tend to become actively involved in large social movements. Receptive to cause marketing, Millennials are more likely to buy products that support their cause.
- Value work-life balance. Millennials understand the benefits of a balanced life, personal growth and being productive. They tend to like their jobs more than previous generations and stay in jobs that fit their talents and passions, but they won’t stay in jobs just for security.
Bear in mind that just as companies that understand and market products to the characteristics of this generation benefit financially in terms of sales, companies that embrace the values of the Millennials within their corporate philanthropy will benefit by training (well) a future generation of leaders.
While company EVP strategies may vary, one thing is certain: engaging employees through volunteering infuses jobs with purpose-filled work that resonates with Millennials and provides an excellent training ground for future leadership.