There was a great Op-Ed piece recently in the New York Times, written by Jessica Powell, a former VP at Google, titled, Bosses: Consider Caring a Bit. Right away, you know where she’s coming from but don’t let that deter you, if you’re a Gen X or Boomer, as her message is important.
She writes, “The classic rules that the 40-and-up crowd grew up with – no talking about race, religion, or politics in the workplace – are eroding under the influence of millennials and Gen Z workers.”
Why? Because, as she says, you might “blame their parents” – who are Boomers themselves – but these new generations of workers, now comprising more than 50% of the U.S. Workforce (per the Pew Research Center) “want to work for companies whose purpose extends beyond profit-making. They value companies that have a positive impact on society, show a commitment to a diverse and inclusive workforce and are focused on issues such as pay equity and the environment.”
This challenge is an opportunity
This is the change – the hard part – for managers who are older. And it’s important to recognize that this challenge, as she puts it, is also an opportunity. Where companies, in the past, have tried to stay agnostic or out of the fray when it came to matters outside the business itself, that behavior won’t work moving forward. At least not if they want to attract and retain good talent.
Nothing is constant – everything is change. If nothing else, 2020 showed us the extent of how much and how fast change can happen.
In this case, what used to be the fringe cases, companies that were focused on doing good, such as Pantagonia for the environment, are going to have to become the norm. Caring about issues outside of work is no longer for nonprofits alone. Companies need to make a stand, which means they’re not just about selling or making profits or shareholder value.
Millennials and Gen Z vote with their feet and their wallets
Critics might say that Jessica’s perspective comes from working with artists because after she left Google, she co-founded a start-up that brings AI tech to the music industry. But that would be ignoring the facts: millennials and Gen Z care about the world. They have strong opinions about the environment, social injustice, and other social issues. And – most importantly – they vote on the importance of these issues with their feet and their wallets.
It’s all too easy now to just wave off Millennials (and Gen Z). But companies who do so will become dinosaurs – in the same way that companies that didn’t recognize or resisted digital transformation are now being swept to the side. Change is the one constant we call can depend on. And keeping up with it – as an employer, as a company seeking to sell goods and services – means recognizing companies need to start to ‘do the right thing.’
It doesn’t have to be hard if you choose what you want to stand for. Enterprises have done this for years, on a small scale, focusing a small amount of effort on supporting causes that resonated with their businesses. It’s time those small scale efforts become mainstream. In the end, business will be better for it – profits and all.
Not sure how to start? Contact me and let’s talk!