Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations around the globe have demonstrated extraordinary agility, changing business models literally overnight.
The message for leaders and society
They rapidly employed remote-working arrangements, moved entire business processes to less-affected geographies, and embraced multicompany cooperation to redeploy furloughed employees across sectors. Bureaucracy consistently took a backseat to urgency and results. That ability to embed rapid and nimble decision-making into company cultures will be equally important as business moves forward. The substantial shifts in society, its institutions, and individuals during the crisis have unsettled our familiar structures. These shifts have resulted in significant changes and new uncertainties about the underpinnings of business and society that resilient leaders must address. At the same time, leaders have the opportunity to reboot business with new perspectives and more ambitious goals.
The viewpoints of millennials and Gen Zs will be critical when creating a new and better normal. Employers should promote dialogue with these generations, listen to their concerns, and strive to understand why certain issues really matter to them. Leaders also should ask for input on how they can make the workplace more accommodating and flexible, help employees prepare for the future by providing training and tools that enable them to succeed, and better enable people to realize both their personal and professional ambitions.
Leaders also should recognize purpose-led actions taken by their organizations can have a threefold impact: Those initiatives can not only help society—they can help business and have a positive influence on employees’ concerns.
Some potential activities:
•Leaders can show a commitment to making the world a better place for everyone, demonstrating a purpose beyond profit, consistent with recent statements offered by the World Economic Forum10and the Business Roundtable11 focused on the needed shift from shareholder capitalism to a broader stakeholder capitalism.
•Addressing climate change and implementing environmental sustainability programs.
•Providing more opportunities for employees to be engaged in their communities.
•Ensuring diversity and inclusion across the organization, and promoting compensation structures that reduce income inequality and create a fair distribution of wealth.
•Finally, employee mental health should be a priority for employers, if it’s not already. All employers should research and understand the root causes of mental health challenges among workers in general, and their own people in particular—and create or update programs based on their learnings.
Effective approaches are good for people and good for business.
The demands and priorities of these younger generations will come to bear in the post-pandemic world. This survey has shown that they are committed to creating a better and brighter future on the other side of this crisis, with the pandemic highlighting the high stakes of the systemic societal problems against which they have always reacted. Millennials and business leaders can and should work together to build a more equitable world.
We are at a pivotal point—the world is changing quickly, for better or worse. Together we have an opportunity to use this moment in time as a chance to reset and create a brighter world. Our future, and the future of generations to come, depend on it.DI_2020-MillennialSurvey
About the report
The fieldwork for the 2020 Millennial Survey began in late November 2019 and concluded a week into the new year. During the final phase of our analysis, the World Health Organization reported on social media that “a cluster of pneumonia cases” had been observed in China’s Hubei province. We had no way of knowing it, but the world was about to change dramatically.
During the next three months, the Millennial Survey team crunched numbers, developed observations and storylines, and began drafting the report in anticipation of an early May launch. But while this work was transpiring, the escalating global health and economic crises made it evident that much of the insight from the data we already collected was quickly becoming dated. Those insights reflected a different time and different set of circumstances.
There was still relevancy to the information, but it needed to be considered in a completely different context. So we quickly developed and administered a smaller “pulse” survey to approximately half as many people as the initial survey,
13 countries instead of 43 for millennials and 20 for Gen Zs.
We repeated many of the questions from the first study so we could gauge the effect of the pandemic on opinions.
The remaining questions were new and focused on pandemic-related issues. Accordingly, the report that follows reflects the views of millennials and Gen Zs both pre-pandemic and during the crisis.
We recognize that this may create challenges in interpreting this year’s report data and have made every effort to present the material as clearly as possible.What you’ll note in the pages is that these younger generations remain committed to their values and beliefs. If anything, the pandemic has reinforced their desire to help drive positive change in their communities and around the world. And they continue to push for a world in which businesses and governments mirror that same commitment to society, putting people ahead of profits and prioritizing environmental sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and income equality. As we move toward another new normal, we all have an opportunity to reset and reimagine a better normal, a brighter future reshaped with these values in mind.