Millennials, Transparency, and the Alignment of Values

Each generation (as named by demographers) has their own marked stereotypes.  Baby Boomers are optimistic consumers, Gen X are the disillusioned, and Millennials are the spoiled digital natives.  Most of my management development workshops address how to best manage in a multi-generational workplace.  One topic that typically comes up is how to align corporate values with those of job candidates.

This is a relatively new topic.  I’m pretty sure that very few Baby Boomers asked their prospective employers about their charitable donations.  But, large companies started aligning themselves with causes not related to the bottom line (United Way was the first, but not the last, organization to leverage this).  Once they started wearing their values on their sleeves, they could then attract job candidates who shared the same values.

However, the real world is messy for some charities (including United Way). What were once seen as “mom and apple pie” non-profits for companies to be aligned with suddenly carried baggage that was as likely to repel as attract candidates (see the Boy Scouts of America, first for their stance on gay scouts and leaders and then their abuse scandal). To avoid being linked with organizations that can be fallible, other companies began professing their values to the world (see Patagonia and Hobby Lobby as two examples).

So, companies start making a big deal about their values.  Millennials caught on to this, ran with their tech that exploits this transparency, and have made themselves more value conscious than previous generations in terms of what they purchase and where they want to work.  This is now extending to trying to influence whom their employers do business.  And I don’t believe that it is a liberal/conservative thing.  If Hobby Lobby executives started making decisions that employees thought were against the values they signed up for, younger workers would definitely have their voices heard.

If a company believes that it should lead with its values in the marketplace, then it should be clear about them when recruiting and hiring.  Not that you want to get into selecting people based on religious or political beliefs, but you do want to let candidates know the values and culture of the organization so they can make the best choice for themselves.  Think of it as a real-life work life preview.

Of course there are risks to this approach, but your Millennial candidates are going to form an opinion about your values based on what’s on your website, your business partners, and the behavior of your executives.  It is probably better that they hear what you are all about from you instead of the internet.

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