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IBE Blog - Changing Attitudes to Business Why Millennials Matter

Institute of Business Ethics Blog By Linn Byberg, Researcher 


Millennials have been a recurring theme in  recent surveys on business ethics issues  and they continue to have an impact on the business ethics agenda.

Millennials show the most positive change in opinion about business behaviour, with nearly 7 in 10 millennials now considering  British business to be behaving ethically. This is a dramatic change from last year, when over-55s were more likely to feel this way and only half of millennials agreed. 

Those born between 1983 and 2004 – are believed to be strongly influenced by having grown up in a digital world. Rapid developments in smart technology during their lifetimes has provided them with instant results and information and they are often characterised as needing fast results and rewards. You can read more in our Business Ethics across the Generations briefing.

Millennials often get a bad press. But comprehensive research by Ipsos Mori reveals that ideas that millennial workers are lazier, less loyal, more depressed, and have a shorter attention span than their predecessors are nothing more than misconceptions. Generally speaking, millennials are curious creatures preferring to collaborate on projects rather than work individually, and who are excited to learn new skills. 

They are changing the world of work both inside and out. They look for an employer whose values match their own. They increasingly expect companies to deliver social and environmental change, and work collaboratively to tackle global issues. Yet, they can be cynical when it comes to business’ motivations and ethics, if they feel that business leaders’ priorities are different to theirs, as the Deloitte Millennial Survey reveals. 

Their values are intrinsic to their working life. Research by the consultancy Global Tolerance also shows that 62% of millennials want to work for a company that has a positive impact on the world, 53% would work harder if they felt they were making a difference to others and 50% would prefer purposeful work to a high salary. 

Work-home balance

Work-home balance continues to be an issue which the public thinks business needs to address. As a result, many organisations are now actively trying to recruit and retain talent by offering more flexible working arrangements. While this is not only an issue for Millennials, this generation are trying to combat a long-standing culture of presenteeism and always being available. To counter the 9 to 5, they are hoping to use their position as digital natives to work more flexibly and remotely.
According to research conducted by Robert Walters, 90% of millennials surveyed regard policies that encourage a good work-home balance as one of the best things about their job. As a result, companies championing liberal values such as ensuring equal pay and offering remote work are more likely to be set up for long-term success. This is as millennials will be more likely to look for work within organisations that embody such policies.

Discrimination and human rights

Many millennials are exhibiting a marked desire for reassurance. They feel pessimistic about the prospects for political and social progress, along with concerns about safety and social equality. While good pay and positive cultures are most likely to attract millennials, inclusion and flexibility are important keys to retaining them. 

Issues relating to discrimination and human rights are much more important to this age group than any others,  according to the IBE’s survey . And in another survey, 85% of female millennials say that an employer’s policy on diversity, equality and workforce inclusion are important factors when deciding whether or not to work for them. 

Millennials are eager for business leaders to be proactive about having a positive impact on the world and to be responsive to employees’ needs. Most crave purpose in their work, so in order to attract and retain this generation creating an ethical culture of recognition and meaningful rewards is all the more important. 
However, employees of all generations will benefit from how millennials are pushing these agendas to the fore.  It is important we do not dampen their enthusiasm, their engagement with business and their urge to make a positive impact, both inside and outside the workplace. With Generation Z now entering the workforce, organisations which understand the priorities of  different generations and respond accordingly, will help promote trust in business and engage the workforce across all generations in the years to come.

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