Australian Millennials question business motivations, ethics: Deloitte

Australian Millennials’ opinion of business’ motivation and ethics has dropped to its lowest levels since 2014, according to the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey.

David Brown, national human capital leader, Deloitte

The percentage of Australian Millennials who say business has a positive impact on society has dropped from 72% in 2017 to 45% in 2018. Less than half (44%) believe businesses behave ethically and 83% believe business focuses on its own agenda, rather than considering wider society (up from 69% in 2017). Deloitte surveyed more than 10,000 Millennials across 26 countries, including 337 Millennials in Australia.

There is much new to be pessimistic about, but there are opportunities for employees that want to engage with Millennial human capital, noted David Brown, national human capital leader, Deloitte.

“On an opportunistic side, there is a real opportunity for business leaders to fill the vacuum,” David says. “You’re starting to see some business leaders do that, and it’s really striking a chord particularly with millennials that see the workplace as an increasing place for them to make change.”

The survey revealed three broad themes – perceptions of business are declining; flexibility and a positive work culture are key to millennial loyalty; and young workers feel unprepared for the changing nature of work.

“Business leaders should be very concerned, and they ignore input from this survey at their peril,” David says. “We are seeing the increasing rise of the power of the individual and that’s playing out as we see an increasing contingent workforce. We’re now in that 40-50% range of the workforce are individuals who are choosing to be freelancers, contractors, part of the gig economy. Nearly 25% of graduates coming out who are preferring to look at individual start-ups and  are entrepreneurial as opposed to going into corporates. The supply and demand of labour means that business leaders who are not appealing to engaging with Millennials and Gen Z are shooting themselves in the foot in terms of availability.”

According to the survey, Millennials believe business’ priorities should be job creation, innovation, enhancing employees’ lives and careers, and making a positive impact on society and the environment. But, “when asked what the organisations they work for focus on, Millennials cited generating profit, driving efficiencies, and producing or selling goods and services—the three areas they felt should have the least focus. They recognise businesses must make a profit to achieve the priorities Millennials desire, but take issue with how business is investing those profits,” Deloitte reported.

“There are few things employers can do,” David says. “We saw in the research that Millennials and Gen Z think that the culture of the work environment is more important than what they’re getting paid. So for employers, it’s about creating those engaging environments – firstly, looking at the nature of the work they’re providing and making sure that they’re investing in building the capability and the skills of the people who are working with them.”

Another point would be for employers to engage with their employees and the wider community.

“The second thing employers can do is taking a stronger point of view on societal issues because millennials work in environments where business leaders have a POV,” David says. “What they can be doing is to leverage the technology that is available to them- social media platforms that are out there, leveraging some of the learning platforms that are out there, all things that provide a more engaging workplace for millennials. It is a perception on the part of millennials that organisations need to do more to prepare them for the future.”

The perceptions of company culture play into decisions around how long Millennials stay at a company. According to the survey, when choosing a new employer, Australian millennials believe culture is more important than money: 67% rate a positive work environment as the most important consideration (compared to 52% globally), followed by financial rewards/benefits (63% in Australia and globally). Flexibility is ranked as third most important (by 55% in Australia and 50% globally).

Almost half (44%) of millennials expect to stay with their employer for less than two years. Only 22% say they plan to stay beyond five years.  Gen Z loyalty is even lower, with 59% saying they would expect to stay with their current employer for less than two years and only 16% saying they would stay beyond five years.

According to the survey, only 27% of Millennials in Australia perceive that their employer is providing the skills they need to prepare and develop, compared to globally statistics of 36-37%, David notes. It is difficult to know if that perception is borne out, because statistics on training spending is hard to pin down, Deloitte said. In Australia the amount spent on training will depend on your business needs and financial resources, and according to the last major survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2001/2002, over 80% of Australian companies provided staff training.  Those who did spent around 2% of their total wages bill, on average, on training and education, according to Stacey Edmonds, Future of Learning leader and partner at Deloitte.

Employers need to engage with Millennial and Gen Z employees, but also workers over 60, which is the second fastest growing work demographic behind Millennials, David notes.

“The second thing they should do is zero in on creating an environment for their people which is around building the capabilities and the skills,” David says. “People are looking for work experiences. It used to be we talked about the career ladder. That’s now moved to the career lattice – people being able to move a bit like Snakes and Ladders. It’s now about the experience that is being created for people, and are organisations creating the flexibility, the fluidity and giving people a breadth of experiences. There is also a whole piece around the nature of flexibility itself – to what degree they embrace the broader talent ecosystem and accepting that people will come and go and making that easy for people rather than creating the guilt trip when someone does leave, keeping an open door and keeping in touch.”