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Millennials want to help, but first we need to listen

Millennials and Generation Z make up most of the global workforce, and yet businesses aren’t taking any steps toward bridging the ever-growing gap between them and the rest of the world. 

“What they think, what they believe, what they do, what they choose not to do, is transforming our society as we know it, creating an urgent need for business, non-profits, and government to work together to understand their needs,” said Elaine Quijano, anchor for CBS News, and moderator of “Generation Disrupted” at the Reykjavik Global Forum. 

But instead of making the effort that Millennials and Generation Z so desperately want to see, the distrust between them, businesses, NGOs and government is growing. 

Panelist Michele Parmelee, Global Chief People & Purpose Officer at Deloitte, has seen this happen, as Deloitte has conducted studies on Millennials over the last eight years. In its most recent study, Deloitte found that “75% of [Millennials] surveyed thought that business was having a positive impact on society, and now, with [the] most recent survey, that’s down to 55%.”

Though distrust in business is growing, Millennials still need to find jobs upon graduating from college, especially as the student debt crisis grows. Millennials want to find jobs that align with their personal beliefs. And not just places that say they’re taking action, but companies that actually display the desire to change both internally and externally. 

This has made finding jobs harder. As panelist Serena Saunders, a millennial, intern and current college student, put it during the discussion, “While we may be able to find a job, is it a job that’s fulfilling for us personally?” 

Millennials are looking at more than just their work. Millennials like Saunders are also looking at company culture and values, like how flexible the work schedule is and where the company stands on certain social issues. 

Simply, businesses should be concerned with more than just profit. “We, as business leaders, need to understand what their priorities are,” said Parmelee. 

This is going to require companies and government organisations to undergo organisational shifts. Whether guided by a Millennial advisory board or driven by a desire to be the change they wish to see in the world, walking the talk is going to be essential. 

“As we are focused on gender equity, the core of how that can be accomplished is through these organisational shifts, where it is a through line, and enacted in every business process, where the values are lived day to day,” said Victoria Budson, founding Executive Director of the Women Public Policy Program at Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a member of the Reykjavoík Global Forum Advisory Board.  

Millennials and Generation Z want to contribute to the conversations that are going on today and to help businesses, NGOs, and governments grow and change for the better. Their intentions are to improve the state of things, businesses just need to start listening.