Millennials get down to business

  • Millennials at work
Published 11 months ago

Millennials are becoming increasingly influential in the workplace as they rise through the ranks of big businesses. Having grown up with technology and weathered a global recession, millennials are forming a larger and larger part of the workforce. So what are their thoughts on business and the future of business? Deloitte's latest survey presents the outlook educated and employed millennials around the world have on global social, economic, and business matters.

Nisha Sawon

Editorial staff

The big picture

The overriding theme with Gen Y employees is that broad scale issues top their concerns, ranging from corruption to climate change. Whether it's in established or emerging markets, millennials reported feeling personally concerned by the issues that are affecting our world today. For example 56% of those in mature markets and 42% in emerging markets are concerned about war, terrorism and political tension. Hunger, healthcare issues and income inequality are at the forefront of the minds of 50% of respondents in emerging markets and 43% in mature markets. Crime and corruption are the biggest concerns for millennials in emerging markets (58%).

Looking ahead, the snapshot of the millennial outlook broadly reflects the wider global economic outlook, with more optimism in the emerging markets than the developed ones, where political and economic changes or stagnation have dampened prospects. For example, following Brexit, the economic confidence of generation Y in the UK is down 40% in 2016, compared to 51%, 47% and 43% increase in Argentina, Peru and Brazil, respectively.

Spain has also suffered from unemployment, and millennials don't seem hopeful, with a 23% drop in optimism compared to the previous year. 57% of those in emerging markets are optimistic about the economic situation in their nations – an increase of 14% in 2016. Conversely, those expecting improvement in mature markets are down 4%. This again corresponds with the instability rocking some more developed markets, while emerging markets (such as the BRIC economies) are on the up and up.

Attitudes to businesses

social change

Millennials are considered to have an overall liberal attitude, with more concern for societal issues than their predecessors. This is also visible through the recent rise of social entrepreneurs creating businesses not just for profit, but to positively impact their community. It seems this appreciation of ethical business practices and societal betterment hasn't been lost on big businesses – millennials have an increasingly positive view of how the international companies are operating, with a 13% increase in those agreeing that businesses behave ethically and a 16% drop in those agreeing that they focus on their own matters rather than society at large.

On the other hand, the report suggests that millennials think more can be done on behalf of governments and big businesses to impact positive societal change. 78% of those asked thought that supra-national governments and global institutions had the power to make a difference, but only 66% believed they actually had done so. Multinationals were deemed by 74% to have the potential, while just 59% felt they had had a positive impact. Local companies fared well; though only 55% thought they had the potential to effect change, 57% thought they had lived up to the potential and made a positive impact. Unsurprisingly, more people thought that larger and more international institutions had the power to make a difference on the big issues, however, on the business side, only smaller companies were living up to expectations.

What millennials want

Full-time employment with flexibility, in short. 65% of those asked prefer full-time employment, while 31% preferred freelancing or consulting. Two thirds also reported that employers had adopted 'flexible' policies, be it in regards to location (64%), role (68%), or the working hours (69%). This goes hand in hand with millennial employees claiming that this move to greater flexibility has an overall positive impact on the business and themselves. Those in highly flexible work environments noted the most significant impact on everything from the individual's work/life balance and productivity, to the organisation's ability to meet objectives and overall morale.

Millennials tend to associate flexibility with travelling and freedom of movement — whether it is for work, studies, or leisure. Many of the millennials who prefer freelancing over full-time employment become part of the global community of digital nomads — professionals who aren't tied to an office, but can carry out their work from anywhere in the world, as long as there's internet connection and a laptop.

Facing the issues

community and charity

Everyone wants to earn living, but millennials are looking to get something more from the 'work' experience. Nearly 90% of those asked considered the success of a business to be more than just its profits – both personal and broader issues were named as measures of success. When it comes to personal development, 31% of respondents regarded their employers to be involved in addressing the education, skills and training of employees. 27% agreed that, be it through direct involvement or support for charities, their employer was addressing the issue of unemployment.

However, the figures notably dropped on the side of broader societal and global issues such as hunger/ famine (13%), distribution of wealth (11%) and rights of minority groups (10%). This again supports the notion that millennials believe that businesses aren't living up to their potential when it comes to addressing the big issues and making a positive change, which they view as a measure of business's success beyond its balance sheet.

It's hardly surprising that this generation is so keen to see the institutions they work for take the lead, as, not only do they believe this large businesses have the potential to effect change, they also believe they have the most influence through internal charities.