Q: How important is company culture and ethics to the new generation workforce?
Wayne Roye, CEO
A: Between now and 2025, when it is estimated that millennials will comprise up to 80 percent of the workforce, organizations will be fighting an entirely different war for talent.
Forward-thinking executives are not only broadcasting meaningful work as part of their employee value proposition, but they are also strategically helping new hires deepen and connect their sense of purpose with the organization’s vision. The goal is to make working for a company more like working for a cause.
Organizations that develop a clear line of sight between an employee’s implicit motivation and the organization’s vision encourage an authentic form of ethical behavior, rarely achieved through reward or punishment alone. One way organizations are making this possible is by helping employees develop narrative competencies — the skills required to explore the stories we tell ourselves about work. When shared carefully and examined closely, narratives often reveal universal values, strengthen solidarity and encourage acts of compassion.
A recent study at Stanford University, which included 800 MBA graduates from 11 top European and U.S. business schools, found that 94 percent of students said they would be willing to forgo financial benefits to work for an organization with a better reputation for ethics and corporate responsibility. There is one catch: The next generation is looking beyond ethics, for a genuine ethos where employees do the right thing, even when it is not formally rewarded or recognized. Organizations that hire for and develop cultures of citizenship experience improved performance.
The next generation is also intentionally seeking leaders who can recognize and rise above ego and self-interest. This requires a relatively new leadership competency, mindfulness, which is now a mainstay in leadership development programs in organizations such as General Mills, Google, and Pfizer.
Bringing humanity back to the work is good for business. Principled leadership, organizational citizenship and meaningful work are the new hallmarks of prosperous cultures.
William Brendel, is president and CEO of the Center for Ethical Organizations at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.