Interesting Stuff

From Baby Boomers to Millennials – how shared values will make our future


Our Values Revolution has been making waves in the digital sphere. The splashes it has created have put the future and millennial values firmly in my sights, and I have set about considering what others have to say on the subject of millennials, new attitudes to work and business and what the future may hold for us all.

How Millennials Could Upend Wall Street and Corporate America from the Brookings Institution and written by Morley Winograd and Dr. Michael Hais makes for compelling reading and I recommend the paper to anyone seeking an insight into some of the major social structures that underpin American consumerism, business and culture.

The Brookings Institute paper outlines some of the ideological battles facing a drive to implement social good. The authors claim that, “the Baby Boom generation, born between 1946 and 1964, has made confrontation the touchstone of its existence”. In their youth, they protested against the Vietnam war or fought against people who did and as a result, honed confrontation to a “fine art”. The political landscape was polarised between liberal and conservative and the paper suggests that this stood in the way of a collective consciousness for a large portion of society.

As the boomers leave the corridors of congress, Winograd and Hais predict (or hope!) that the mindset of the millennials will hold a greater desire to advance the welfare of the group. With the open platform of social media, the global community of young people arguably feel a level of unprecedented connectedness. From this collective consciousness has sprung a number of inspiring schemes including the Giving Tuesday project which inspires people to give their time, money and support to whichever charitable cause they deem worthy.

The project, which began as a reaction to the numerous days dedicated to consumerism and capitalism such as Cyber Monday and Black Friday, highlights what is best about a global network of people and the opportunities available. Coupled with the Giving Tuesday campaign is the “unselfie” scheme which encourages people to take pictures of themselves in support of the campaign and turn the inherent narcissism of the selfie phenomenon on it’s head. The most recent Giving Tuesday was held on the 2nd of December 2014 and in the UK charitable donations were up by an incredible 270%. For some charities on that day, donations rose by as much as 800%.

Winograd and Hais predict that millennials will promote a more collective world-view such as the one evident in the Giving Tuesday campaign, rather than a fragmented, insular one that does not actively take on responsibility for global problems: “as millennials become CEOs, or determine the fate of those who are, they will change the purpose and priorities of companies in order to bring their strategies into alignment with the generation’s values and beliefs.”

In some ways, this claim echoes the finding of our own report that 62% of millennials want the company they work for to make a positive impact by taking an active role in transforming companies from the inside. However, what we have found is that young people starting their career will simply not consider working for organisations who do not strive to improve social good in the first instance. Rather than taking a job with a company and hoping to change it when they are endowed with a position of power, millennials will simply look elsewhere. This may mean less money in the pay packet but our findings show that 44% will choose meaningful work over a higher salary.

In addition to their collaborative behaviour in the workplace, the millennials are also displaying undeniable power in their consumption.

According to the Brookings paper, in the US, millennials account for $1 trillion in consumer spending, and THAT is power. The millennials, more connected and organised than any other generation preceding them have the power to divert money, influence and power away from any organisation that does not uphold the values of the emergent generation. We found in our report that 60% of millennials prefer to buy products or services from ethical companies.

The Brookings Institute paper brings to light some fascinating findings but I would suggest that the shift in mindset needs to be encouraged in non-millennials too, and this mentality need not necessarily be the reserve of the younger generation.  Instead of dividing the boomers and millennials into two clearly distinct parties, what can be done to transfer what is best about the millennial mentality to others? Non-millennials need to be welcomed into the conversation on how to implement social good across all three sectors and encouraged to use the tools of social media to make their voices heard.

Although the paper contains a hopeful message, perhaps Winograd and Hais are guilty of relying too much on the next generation whilst alienating the current one and not acknowledging that there is much work that can be done in the present. Whilst, our Values Revolution report focuses on the nascent generation, the boomers (certainly for now!) have a very important role, the people in power need to find, live and engage people in the values of the organisations they lead. They must do this if they hope to employ the best and brightest of the next generation and retain them.

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