Global Chief Diversity Officer
Millennials, the next generation of leaders, ranks quality of life – their own and others’ – highly. This defining perspective will change organizational paradigms around the world within the next decade.
The Discussion between Generations panel at the Sodexo Quality of Life Conference revealed the evolution of thought that has led to the focus on Quality of Life. The millennial panelists were clear on how their peers seek autonomy from employers, flexibility, and resources, and that they will reward companies that provide these attributes with passion, entrepreneurial spirit and innovation. A study from the Pew Research Center shows that millennials also value job security more highly than boomers do. But they won’t stay at a job they don’t like. Some 50% of millennials say having a “job you enjoy” is “extremely important” to them, compared with just 38% of boomers. When millennials are running the organizations of the future, quality of life considerations will be a strategic priority. Polls, such as Sodexo’s Quality of Life International Study, reveal that young future leaders rate quality of life as the most important factor in organizational performance.
By contrast, Boomer panelists described how they are driven to achieve, which makes for a heady lifestyle and a sense of accomplishment, but were clear that this workaholic approach takes a toll of their personal commitments. This generation is credited with opening minds to what disenfranchised segments of society could achieve; championing initiatives that began in the late 1950s and early 1960s as they grew up. Their passion to improve the world paved the way for women and minorities to achieve and advance, including leading large corporations and holding the country’s highest office. Boomers also forged strong social support systems, which was important because as they strove to “have it all,” they struggled to achieve some semblance of work-life balance. Pew Research Center found that not only do boomers give their overall quality of life a lower rating than adults in other generations, they also are more likely to worry that their incomes won’t keep up with inflation — this despite the fact that boomers enjoy the highest incomes of any age group.
Of interest was how the generations view each other. Millennials are characterized as passionate, creative, entrepreneurial and full of belief in themselves. At the same time, the panelists recognized that they also tend to be impatient, looking for instant gratification; and are immersed in technology — and that they sometimes lose sight of personal values. The revolution in technology is their pathway to create new types of businesses and solve problems in innovative ways. While their entrepreneurial spirit rings true, they also have a low tolerance for financial risk. A recent Wall Street Journal analysis of Federal Reserve data shows the share of people under age 30 who own private businesses has hit a 24-year low—just 3.6%, down from 10.6% in 1989.
The millennial panelists’ wish list for the future includes benefits that allow their future families to be well provided for. Interestingly, they also seek freedom from anxiety, perhaps reflecting their own family experiences. This is connected to the desire for great benefits to reduce family-related anxieties, so to the extent that companies can address this need, they will promote employee satisfaction.
Their desire for flexibility and resources to work in their own ways may be another stress-reducer. And they want to be recognized for work well done; it’s another major factor in eliminating stress at work.
Incentive bonuses and benefits, therefore, may be more important than salary in promoting employee happiness and quality of life, although as the basis of family well-being, compensation is necessarily an important factor.
One very successful boomer, Ervin “Magic” Johnson, shares his perspective on how millennials can improve the quality of life in companies and throughout society:
- Encourage young leaders to invest in urban communities. With $2 trillion of disposable income among African Americans and Latinos in U.S. cities, the business opportunity is great.
- Embrace cultural differences and provide internships to underprivileged minority students.
- Fill the jobs of tomorrow by building a workforce with strong STEM skills. Ensuring that all students have access to the technology needed to compete academically is a big part of building a skilled and inclusive future workforce.
Millennials are unique not because of who they are, but because of how they live. They are extremely comfortable with technology and pride themselves on being permanently connected, allowing them instance access to information, news, and other people. They have grown up during a time of immense change and have the benefit of being able to quickly and comfortably adapt to new ways of doing things. Millennials bring a new way of approaching work and life. In is in every organization’s best interest to learn how to motive and inspire millennials – They are the talent that will propel us into the future and smart businesses are engaging them now.
To read more on the discussion between generations check out the Quality of Life Conference Report.
Rohini Anand, Ph.D. is Senior Vice President and Global Chief Diversity Officer for Sodexo.