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Does your company have the courage to help millennials make a better world?

John Dienhart, Professor Emeritus, Albers School of Business and Economics, Seattle University, and Fellow of the Ethics and Compliance Initiative from 2002-2015

SPONSORED — In 2001, McKinsey declared there was a war to hire millennials, which it called a “War for Talent.” Millennials are individuals born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s. According to Pew Research, there were approximately 75 million millennials in 2015. If all these individuals were working, they would form nearly 50 percent of the workforce.

While the “War for Talent,” is a catchy term, millennials are not likely to be attracted to companies that take such a stance. Rather, they want to work for companies that share their values.

Millennials have many shared values. In describing the middle of the bell curve, with significant outliers, good and bad, let’s see what millennials are like.

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, millennials are optimistic, self-confident and want to make the world better. They believe that baby boomers have left them a severely damaged world, and they need to put it right. One of the defining characteristics of putting the world right is ensuring the companies treat people and the environment with dignity.

In addition, more women millennials are getting advanced degrees than men. This means that we can expect women to outnumber men in the millennial corporate workforce and, soon, in this workforce as a whole. The glass ceiling is about to be shattered. Is your company embracing this future or will you be dragged kicking and screaming into the new millennial universe?

If you want to attract millennials, your company has to be one where this female-dominated, optimistic, self-confident and more altruistic cohort will feel at home.

Do millennials really want to make the world better? In 2006, Teach for America, a nonprofit that helps low-income schools, received 19,000 applications and accepted only 13 percent. The number of applicants to Teach for America was greater than any of these companies: Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, Accenture, and General Electric. This is before the 2008 crash when expectations of landing a corporate job were high and reasonable. Millennials want to make a better world.

The Ethics and Compliance Initiative, in Washington, D.C., did in-depth research on millennials during the period 2009-11. The ECI focused specifically on millennials in the workplace.

  • They want transparency in the workplace
  • They want frequent feedback on their projects and recognition for work well done
  • They are more likely to report wrong-doing in the workplace
  • They want diversity
  • They value and build personal relationships at work and outside the workplace
  • When they think of business they do not think of the United States, they also think of the world
  • These characteristics are an integrated whole. The need for regular feedback links with the importance of personal relationships and building networks. The desire for regular feedback is also part of a larger purpose. Millennials want to create workplace communities for continuous improvement. They want to make the world and their workplaces better. This can be and is disruptive, but is also extremely valuable in the marketplace for talent and customers. Tapping into the millennial purpose can strengthen and jumpstart companies in this intensely competitive and global environment.

    If your purpose is their purpose, they will go beyond the call of duty to deliver excellent products and services for you.

    If your purpose is their purpose, you will create a culture that will encourage millennials to stay and attract others.

    Here is a question: Does your company have the strength and courage to pursue this path?

    John Dienhart, Professor Emeritus, Albers School of Business and Economics, Seattle University, and Fellow of the Ethics and Compliance Initiative from 2002-2015

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