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How Millennials Are Changing the Workplace — for Good

June 23, 2014

Headshot_emily_yuWhat's the secret to keeping millennials engaged and satisfied with their jobs? Create and provide meaningful opportunities for them as employees to do good — whether it's through a donation match, volunteer days, or even service-oriented sabbaticals.

While opportunities for service may not seem like the most pressing challenge for companies, the organizations that successfully meet the needs of millennials will be better positioned to not only attract but also retain this dynamic workforce. Within the next ten years more than 50 percent of the workforce will be represented by those born between 1979 and 1999. The next generation of employees is entrepreneurial, well educated, tech savvy, and driven by their passion to do good, and these tendencies and preferences are already influencing the policies and workplace structures of many companies.

A new survey of more than fifteen hundred millennials conducted by Achieve and sponsored by the Case Foundation affirmed this generation's strong commitment to workplace giving through activities such as volunteering, service projects, and pro bono work. The 2014 Millennial Impact Report showed that a company's involvement with cause-related opportunities influenced all stages of employment — from a millennial's decision whether or not to accept a job (more than 55 percent said they were persuaded to say yes after cause work was discussed during an interview), to whether or not they planned to stay at a job (20 percent said belief in the company's mission and purpose would be the most important reason for staying).

One of the most valuable takeaways from the report is the recognition that a new balance between companies and employees is developing. Indeed, an overwhelming 92 percent of millennial respondents felt that they were actively contributing to a company that was having a positive effect on the world. This response on its own might lead one to believe that companies have it all figured out when it comes to millennial engagement. However, we also see a number of individually oriented workplace giving preferences, such as a strong desire (97 percent) for companies to leverage employees' personal skills in service to a cause. Within the broader context of the report, we see that while millennials may recognize and acknowledge a company's efforts to do good, they express a distinct desire for companies to facilitate ways in which employees themselves can do good.

Today's twenty- and thirty-year-olds have made it clear to companies that they expect to be able to integrate cause work into their professional lives. Driven by millennials, this shift will radically transform how companies define themselves in relation to the social sector. It will be up to companies themselves to answer this call and change their own internal structures and approaches to accommodate millennials' hunger for work that is both fulfilling and meaningful.

Emily Yu is vice president of marketing and partnerships at the Case Foundation, where she also leads the foundation's next gen initiative.

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