In our blog on Building Trust in the Era of Fake News, we discussed the increasing importance of purpose in all of your communications. Here we take a moment to look at why purpose is important, particularly in the realm of recruitment and internal engagement.
Your business' purpose or 'why' is an extremely useful resource when looking for content to broadcast or campaigns to run. This doesn’t mean that all the content you create should suddenly be about charitable causes or that it should be about ‘do-gooding’. It also doesn’t mean that all your content needs to be about your corporate purpose. It means that all the content that you create should have a tangential relevance to your ‘Why?’ as a business. This will provide an underlying coherence to your content at the same time as reinforcing your brand identity. It is a step towards your purpose being about actions, rather than just words.
While purpose is extremely valuable to corporate communicators, it must be ingrained in your way of doing business. It is not enough to simply talk about it: it must become part of your DNA. Your customers and employees will thank you for it, as will your shareholders in due course, so everyone ends up happy.
Purpose and the Zuckerberg generation
Purpose has become particularly important, given the evolutions in employment patterns in the current century. Speak to most employers, and they will complain that today’s youthful workforce has become less loyal and more flighty, but the facts don’t entirely bear this out. According to LinkedIn, millennials – those born between 1982 and 2000 (and among the 500 million who use the platform) – change job four times on average in their first ten years in the workplace. There is disagreement over whether this represents a significant departure from previous generations. A US Bureau of Labor Statistics study of the baby-boomer generation found that they had held an average of 11.7 jobs between the ages of 18 and 48. This is certainly more than the baby boomers’ grandparents would have had at the turn of the 20th century.
What has happened, without question, is a shift in what the workforce want from a job. Millennials have seen their contemporaries overturn convention and earn billions as the creators of global technology brands. From Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber to Malala Yousafzai, they have seen how a compelling story can pluck anyone from obscurity and plaster them across the global stage. They mainline videos that show them what is happening in the world – their world – and how they can and must play a role in shaping it. ‘Shape the world’ is what they plan to do.
Young people naturally find it easier to pick up new things (which is just as well). This has meant that they have been disproportionately empowered by the Technological Revolution. This is upending traditional power structures. They know they have this power, and want to know what the brands they interact with – as their suppliers, employers and broadcasters – will do for them. Young people no longer live to work, they work to live. Work is something that the modern employee does as a part of their life. They expect to live the life of their choosing, which means that all employment is viewed through a ‘What’s in it for me?’ prism. Each job has to be a stepping stone or stamp to their career passport, enhancing their skills and experience to enable the next leap onwards.
Millennials have never known a world not negatively affected by human impact. Climate change, the ‘plastification’ of the oceans, mass extinction and social inequality all play on their minds. They want the businesses that they have a relationship with to be part of the solution to these problems. This explains why business purpose is so specifically important to them, particularly when choosing an employer.
They believe that business can be a genuine force for good in the world. Of the 7,900 young people surveyed as part of the Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2017, 76% view ‘business’ positively and believe that it has a positive influence on society. This rose to 89% among those considered ‘hyperconnected millennials’; i.e. those identified as being highly digitally connected compared to the average in their own countries. Nine out of ten of the most influential millennials believe that business has a positive influence on society. As the guardians of big business, you should seize this opportunity and build on it.
Why should this matter to you?
This matters because the millennials are becoming the most powerful generation in history. They are the largest generation (92 million in the US), surpassing the baby boomers (77 million US), and are entering the workplace and their prime earning/spending years. By 2025 they will make up 75% of the global workforce. They already control US$2.7 trillion in annual expenditure. In the West, over time, they will inherit the wealth of their baby-boomer parents, much of which has been protected and built by final-salary pensions and significant real-estate-asset inflation. They are the future of business and our planet.
Young people want purpose, belonging and ownership of the brands they interact with – your brand. They want to take part. They have grown up surrounded by social media and technology in the post- 9/11 world. Having a purpose to work towards makes them more-engaged employees, more-loyal customers and more-active advocates for your brand. They want you to be part of the solution, and they want you to be the enabler.
For employees, the ability to take part in charitable causes at work leads to an increase in loyalty. Deloittes’ aforementioned survey found that of the 54% of millennials who were provided with the opportunity to contribute to good causes or charities, 35% stayed in their job for 5 years or more (vs 24% without the opportunity). They were also more positive about the role of business in the world and optimistic about the social situation generally.
It’s not just employee engagement that makes this a good area for your business to get involved in. There’s also the direct-profit motive. Around 89% of millennial consumers have said there is a strong likelihood they would buy from companies that support solutions to particular social issues, and 91% said that this fact would increase their trust in the business. This would explain why market-research firm Nielsen identified that, in the financial year 2015, sales of consumer goods from brands with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability grew more than 4% globally, while those without grew less than 1%.
How can this work for you?
As we saw in the Building Trust blog, it is essential that you don't just talk the talk. It is essential that you walk the walk. Take the work that Vodafone have been doing on promoting themselves as the number one employer for women and LGBT+ people. First they have to take the steps in that direction and then tell the world about it - in that order. Of course there will always be a degree the marketing driving the reality, but tangible steps towards the new reality have to come first. The great thing about this type of film is that it makes for really powerful, engaging outputs. Ideal for recruitment and staff engagement:
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