Millennials’ confidence in business takes sharp downturn

Annual Deloitte survey finds millennials are calling for business leaders to more positively impact the broader world.

Millennials (also known as Gen Y) are sounding the alarm for businesses to step up their efforts to make a positive impact on society, according to Deloitte’s newly released seventh annual Millennial Survey .

The global survey of 10,455 millennials across 36 countries included more than 200 respondents from New Zealand. Millennials already make up more than a third of New Zealand’s workforce, making it critical for organisations to tune into their wants, needs and challenges.

Although some leaders are starting to tackle social issues, millennials have become noticeably more skeptical of business’ motivation and ethics. This marks a material shift from Deloitte’s past two surveys, which had suggested millennials felt increasingly more positive about business’ motivation and ethics.

However, in 2018, there was a dramatic reversal as opinions of business reached their lowest level in four years. Today, less than half of millennials believe businesses behave ethically (48 per cent vs 65 per cent in 2017) and that business leaders are committed to helping improve society (47 per cent vs 62 percent).

Deloitte New Zealand director Lauren Foster said the results were lower still among Kiwi respondents, with only 45 per cent believing businesses behave ethically and only 42 per cent thinking business leaders are committed to helping improve society.

“These headline results indicate that the rapid social, technological and geopolitical changes of the past year have had an impact on millennials’ views, and it should be a wake-up call to our business leaders,” says Foster.

Millennials overwhelmingly feel that business success should be measured beyond financial performance. They believe business’ priorities should be job creation, innovation, enhancing employees’ lives and careers, and making a positive impact on society and the environment. However, when asked what their organisations focus on, they cited generating profit, driving efficiencies, and producing or selling goods and services—the three areas they felt should have the least focus.

“These cohorts feel business leaders have placed too high a premium on their companies’ agendas without considering their contributions to society at large. Businesses need to identify ways in which they can positively impact the communities they work in and focus on issues like diversity, inclusion and flexibility if they want to earn the trust and loyalty of millennial workers,” says Ms Foster.

Other notable results from the survey include:

  •  Trust gap provides opportunity for business leaders

While millennials’ view of business has declined sharply, their trust in political leaders is even lower.  Millennials lack faith in the ability of government to make the changes they wish to see. Only 28 per cent of New Zealand respondents believe politicians are having a positive impact on the world (compared to 52 percent negative).

By comparison, 42 per cent of Kiwi respondents believe business leaders are making a positive impact, and they still have some faith in business’ ability to enact meaningful economic, environmental and social change in society.

  •  Diversity and inclusion, flexibility keys to retention

Among New Zealand respondents, 49 per cent envision leaving their jobs within two years, and only 17 per cent are looking to stay beyond five years; and these figures continue to trend downwards.

Among millennials who would willingly leave their employers within the next two years,more than half regard the gig economy as a viable alternative to full-time employment.

So, how can business hold onto them? Millennials place a premium on tolerance and inclusivity, respect and different ways of thinking. While pay and culture are always attractive, diversity, inclusion and flexibility are the keys to keeping millennials happy.

Those working for employers perceived to have diverse workforces and senior management teams are more likely to want to stay five or more years. And among the Kiwi millennial respondents who said they intend to stay with their current employers for at least five years, 55 percent note greater flexibility in where and when they work now compared to three years ago.

  • Industry 4.0 leaves millennials feeling unprepared

Millennials are highly aware of how Industry 4.0 is shaping the workplace and feel it has the potential to free people from routine activities to focus on more creative work.

However, many are uneasy about how prepared they are for its arrival, fearing that their jobs will be replaced or that they don’t have the skills necessary to survive the change. Millennials are looking to business to help ready them to succeed in this new era. This includes guidance that’s far broader than technical knowledge.

Young professionals are especially seeking help building softer skills like confidence, interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence. In their view, though, businesses are not adequately preparing their millennial colleagues for the changes associated with Industry 4.0. Only 23 per cent  of millennials in New Zealand say that their employers are helping to prepare them for Industry 4.0.

“The fluctuating loyalty levels showcase a unique opportunity for businesses to double-down on attracting and retaining millennial talent,” said Foster.

“Businesses need to listen to what millennials are telling us and reimagine how business approaches talent management in Industry 4.0, placing a renewed focus on learning and development to help all people grow in their careers throughout their lifetimes.”

The entire 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey can be found at

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