Millennial’s Quest for Values: Sustainability Plays a Key Role in Retaining the Next Generation Workforce

June 16, 2015 EcoVadis

In the contemporary job market environment HR managers, recruiters and other tasked with staffing their organizations are experiencing changes more drastically and frequently than ever before.  The number of qualified workers is rising as the population expands, pushing generations and demographics to grow increasingly competitive.

Although this means competition is increasing, the new incoming workforce has a different set of demands than previous generations. Studies are showing that the so-called “Millennials” generation (young adults who were born in the 1980’s or 1990’s) want work that goes beyond receiving a paycheck that covers one’s bills and pays for the next holiday. They actively look for companies and employment that create meaning and value in their lives.

Several news articles and studies have emerged in recent years about this trend. Research from Global Tolerance describes this most strikingly:

“From their careers to their purchasing decisions to the way they spend their spare time – to have a positive impact on the world. This is not a trend. It’s a profound, societal shift and it’s happening everywhere.”(1)

They illustrate this point with some statistics; “84% of millennials consider it their duty to make a positive difference through their lifestyle and 61% are concerned about the state of the world and feel personally responsible to improve it.” Millennials actively shift the mindset of the current workforce and how organizations must think about finding and recruiting new talent.

However, managers still have a different view that is in stark contrast to millennials. In response to the question on what factors indicate career success, 10% percent of managers said meaningful work was important compared to 30% of Millennials. Also, 48%  of managers highlighted that high pay indicates career success versus 27% percent of Millennials. Furthermore, 11 percent of managers said a sense of accomplishment was important, as compared with 24% of Millennials.

There is more evidence of meaningful, positive and impactful work as an emerging driver of self-fulfillment. In fact, “According to the Cone Millenial Cause report, 80% of 13-25 year olds want to work for a company that cares about its societal impact and would refuse to work for an organisation that did not consider it.” In fact, Abraham Maslow identified this need in his Hierarchy of Needs. The final achievement according to the hierarchy is “Self-actualization” which more and more Millennials tend to strive towards. In general, this generation (at least in the developed world) has fulfilled all other needs such as safety, love/belonging and esteem. Transferring the self-actualization need into the workspace makes sense. Most of our days  are spent at work. Combining these two aspects to complete the last step of Maslow’s hierarchy, namely finding work that promotes or allows for one’s self-actualization was just a matter of time.

Other research and reports reveal that the industry, companies, and hiring managers have started to address these issues. For example, at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2013 in Davos-Klosters, “business leaders were unified in a call to action, suggesting pilot initiatives that would test strategies to engage millennials (18-34) in sustainable lifestyles.” Thus, global business leaders recognize this overall trend and see that operational adjustments will become necessary to be able to hire new, young, talented and educated millennials to stay competitive.

Leaders in sustainability and sustainable companies benefit greatly from this movement, and countless businesses such as start-ups with environmental or social focuses have already been created. More will follow this development. Other articles such as from Fastcoexist highlight how one can find meaningful work. The author asserts that millennials “aren’t motivated by climbing the career ladder or their stock options. The majority of millennials have already changed jobs and over 90% of millennials expect to stay in a job for fewer than three years.” It becomes apparent that organizations must offer employees more than just a fair salary and mandatory benefits, but also a work-life balance and a job that satisfies their craving for purpose. Without that, organizations will continue to face high turnover rates and rising costs associated with hiring and training new employees. The Harvard Business Review summarizes this argument by stating in a research paper that “people who were satisfied in their jobs because they believed in what they were doing were found to have 16 percent better overall performance, 125 percent less burnout and 46 percent more job satisfaction than their peers.” This transference in society’s preferences actively shapes our world into a more socially and environmentally sustainable world. The only challenge for companies will be to adapt quickly enough and not fall behind. As Global Tolerance says,
“Welcome to the Values Revolution.”

This is great news for companies who are investing in embracing and improving their sustainable practices, providing meaningful jobs, so they are ready to recruit and retain the workforce of the future.


(2) evit and Licina: “How the Recession Shaped Millennial and Hiring Manager Attitudes about Millennials’ Future Careers.”(p.18).





Author: Chris Economides, Analyst at EcoVadis

First published in the Sustainable Supply Views blog from EcoVadis


EcoVadis is the CSR rating platform for supply chains spanning 150 sectors and 110 countries of Global-500 enterprises like Verizon, Coca Cola Enterprises, Johnson & Johnson and 120 others.  EcoVadis Scorecards make it easy to understand, track and improve suppliers’ environmental, social and ethical performance. 

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