How a corporate mission can drive young workers away

Firms that don’t live up to their corporate values risk falling foul of their millennial workforce, writes Sydney Finkelstein.

A former student of mine called the other day. She’d worked at a major global company in the food industry, with primary responsibility for sourcing a key ingredient needed for a particular product.

Concerned about the environmental damage that came from traditional methods of cultivating the ingredient, and in light of this company’s professed mission of protecting the environment, she decided she would take the initiative and find an alternative source that was grown more sustainably.

But things didn’t go as planned. It turns out that the alternative ingredient was 25% more expensive than the traditional one, and her boss’s boss was not pleased. Despite countless company communications initiatives about sustainability and the environment, when push came to shove at this business, reality surfaced and it was not pretty.

You may also like:

– The one thing good managers do
– Why you need a harsh boss
– Does your boss inspire greatness?

She was so disillusioned that she started looking elsewhere for an opportunity more in line with her values, and it wasn’t long before she had moved on. The episode marked the beginning of the end for her work at the company.

Transparency between what you say and what you do has never been more important.

In this case, not only did the company in question lose a good employee, but this former student of mine has friends, and ex-professors, and a social media presence, all of which could cause real damage if she chose to speak out about her experience. While she chose not to go public, many others do.

In fact, any firm with the temerity to lie to millennials, whether directly or indirectly, runs the risk of falling foul of its customer base and compromising its corporate image. Bending the truth, or not putting your money where your mouth is, is just a bad idea.

The dilemma

Here’s the dilemma. Every company knows that these days they need a compelling mission to justify why they do what they do. This is standard practice for most businesses and leaders. And more so than other generations, millennials are particularly mission-driven. So far, this sounds like a great match, a great way to entice millennial workers and customers alike, while striving for something meaningful.

But it may also be a trap, and certainly a double-edged sword.

The problem is that most mission statements (same for company documents, internal memos and speeches by senior executives on corporate values) make claims that are often not true. United Airlines is “warm and welcoming” according to their CEO, but it didn’t seem that way for the man who was dragged off one of their planes in April. Or, in the way the incident was handled by the company in the days after. And don’t get your Kiwi friends started on the kerfuffle with Adidas and New Zealand’s beloved All Blacks rugby team several years ago. It seems the company whose mission was “to be the best sport company in the world,” evidenced by what “consumers, athletes, teams, partners and media will say about us” were selling national rugby team jerseys cheaper in the United States than they were in New Zealand.

The only thing that millennials care about more than mission is transparency, integrity and accountability. If you tell millennials that you will do something, they actually expect you to do it, as opposed to earlier generations who may have understood that saying something and doing something are not always the same. Or, who may have understood that sometimes reality gets in the way of even the best intentions. In contrast, millennials are much more literal. You better back up the talk with the walk.

When this doesn’t happen – and let’s face it, modern business is complex and not everything works as advertised –  millennials react personally. And when you lose the trust and confidence of millennials, they are very unforgiving. So, now you have these millennials in your company, who joined because of what you promised, and it turns out that you were lying (or such is the verdict of millennials). Now you’re stuck.

Millennials, in particular, are adept at searching for information on things they are interested in, from all sorts of sources, and don’t always entertain old-fashioned notions of career loyalty. All of this makes it potentially very risky to adopt a lofty mission and not be able to back it up.

The answer

So what to do? The best answer is to have a powerful mission that you truly believe in, and to follow the implications of that mission when the tough decisions need to be made. Pretty much the opposite of what happened to my former student. Remember, people are watching, and they are watching more closely than you may think.

I won’t be the one to advocate for a weak mission, or a meaningless mission, or a vacuous mission. But there’s a risk to holding yourself out as superior to other organisations. That’s asking for trouble.

Perhaps corporate leaders should spend more time on creating a culture that brings value to employees – via opportunities to learn, via transparent progression programmes, via accomplishing something difficult or something important.

More than ever, career mobility abounds meaning people have more choice in where they work. Meanwhile, the boundaries between work and life are blurred, and our employers form part of our online profiles. Arguably, where you work says more about you and your identity than ever before.  Most employees want to learn and get better and want to feel good about where they are working. Millennials more so than just about anyone.

So, spend the time to figure out what makes people tick, what they want at their stage of career, and do whatever you can to help them get there. This is not about coddling millennials; this is about creating an organisation that is so attractive to the most highly educated and technically adept generation to ever come knocking at your door looking for a job that they will want to join, and stay.

Attracting and retaining talent – especially millennial talent – is one of the top concerns for corporate leaders around the world. More so than ever before, the answer has got to come from your culture. Make it transparent, make it about learning, and make it about integrity.

Read the article here.

Source: BBC Capital – By Sydney Finkelstein

Intuit: Gig economy is 34% of US workforce

The gig economy may be bigger than you think.

Intuit, the owner of TurboTax, is seeing the size of the gig workers first hand in its earnings.

“The gig economy…is now estimated to be about 34% of the workforce and expected to be 43% by the year 2020,” Intuit (INTU) CEO Brad Smith said Wednesday on an earnings call. “We think self-employed [work] has a lot of opportunity for growth as we look ahead.”

Smith was referring to freelancers of all stripes — those on online platforms like Uber and Lyft and also more traditional freelancers like plumbers and electricians. He cited an ongoing research project between Intuit and Emergent Research.

It’s the latest sign of the sprawling size of the US freelance economy — a sector the US Labor Department has self-admittedly struggled to quantify. New government data on freelancers won’t be out until 2018.

Specifically driven by the newer online platforms, there are about 4 million quintessential gig workers, research from Intuit and Emergent show. They expect that to grow to 7.7 million workers by 2020.

Related: Millions in gig economy can’t find better work or pay

However, it’s hard to get an official government count to know how many work full time as gig workers or just part-time, or whether they have traditional 9 am to 5 pm jobs and do gig work on the side.

Proponents of the growing gig workforce like to point out that it’s a way for people to earn extra cash on the side while pursuing things that they are passionate about. They say it is a way for people to be independent.

For instance, the global consulting firm McKinsey found that there are roughly 68 million freelancers in the US. They found that gig workers who do it by choice report being happier than in the traditional 9-5 role.

Still, troubling signs are growing along with the independent workforce. Nearly 20 million gig workers do the work because they can’t find better pay or jobs elsewhere, McKinsey found.

The Freelancers Union, which represents freelancers of all stripes not just ones using online platforms, claims employers stiff the average freelancer $6,000 a year.

That trend played out this week. Uber admitted on Wednesday to overcharging drivers in New York City for a commission. On average, drivers will receive $900 from Uber, though some drivers claim they’re owed thousands more.

Read the article at CNNMoney.

Source: CNNMoney (New York)