Millennials. They want the cool thing, and, the right thing.

I asked Dame Fiona Reynolds, a Master at Cambridge University, UK and author of ‘The Fight for Beauty’ – ‘what gives you hope?’ Her answer; “The reason I feel optimistic is because I think young people are amazing and they get this stuff. This is a generation that has got no ticket to the future, they have got no automatic job, they won’t have jobs for life, they won’t have pensions, many of them feel they won’t ever be able to afford to buy a house, and yet, they are steeped in values. They think a lot about values, they think a great deal about the environment, but they also think a lot about social responsibilities and equality and diversity — all of these things. I am, hugely impressed by young people around here. I also think that they look at our generation and say ‘well you messed it up didn’t you’. But I think they are right, I think they again inherit a lot more challenges than us, but I actually think that they will do well and I think that is an enormous source of hope for the future”.

Research echos this optimism. According to a study done by The Society for Human Resource Management, “94 percent of millennials want to use their skills to benefit a cause and 57 percent wish that there were more company-wide service days.”

I did my own piece of research on a handful of millennials, and also Konrad Brits, CEO of Falcon Coffees, a SME, who employs many people of this generation. In fact, one of the millennials I asked, Sophie, provided the title for this piece. Making money for this generation is simply not enough.

Konrad explains that what he has found, is that by speaking internally and externally about a ‘desire beyond profit generation’, to positively impact the lives of the people that Falcon Coffees work with; the smaller farmers, it has had a phenomenal impact on the business. Nearly all the people who primarily have approached Falcon, have asked for work because of the dual purpose of that business. One, that they can work in a job that they love and two, make a decent living.

The average age of people in Falcon’s business is between 28 and 30. Konrad has been impressed when they have approached Falcon, or responded to an advert to fill a position, because he feels he is the one being interviewed, specifically around Falcons stated purpose and intent. How does Falcon make those true, they ask? Konrad loves the fact people have brought those values into the conversation. He believes, that ‘there is a generational recognition that the way the mid-lifers have behaved is not sustainable, it continues to not be sustainable’.

Konrad says Millennials believe global citizenship is their responsibility. How to behave as a business in terms of a global responsibility to the people and resources that are affected by our behavior. Reinforcing Fiona Reynolds observations. That said, we all want a fantastic cup of coffee. But, for this generation, that does not mean exploitation of people, or natures resources. Being unethical in anyway, is simply an unacceptable way of doing business.

The World Value Index has recently been released. It studied 200 major brands and how well their purpose manages to inspire consumers. The survey also asked whether Americans felt that their employer’s values matched their own. Only 42% said that they did; only 14% said that they had a strong alignment of values with their employer.

Business has, undoubtedly, got some work to do if we want to maximise the potential of our talent pool.

As Fiona and Konrad have indicated, millennials ask these questions, questions we can consider for ourselves and our businesses, whatever the generation.

What do we value?

What do we care about?

What are the things that make our heart beat faster and make us feel good about ourselves, our society, our community?

Personally, I think we’ve all had enough and seen enough of what ugly businesses can do. As Sophie said to me, “We want the cool thing, and, the right thing”.

Journey further

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