What Employers Need to Know About Millennials and the Purpose Economy

millennials the purpose economy

millennials the purpose economyAaron Hurst is a globally recognized entrepreneur and CEO of Imperative, a career development platform that helps professionals discover, connect and act on their purpose in their work.

I connected with Hurst recently to get some insights on his book “The Purpose Economy: How Your Desire of Impact, Personal Growth and Community is Changing the World,” its associated movement and where Millennials fit in. Here’s what he had to say:

1. Could you explain the Purpose Economy and how it represents a change in the way people operate in relation to their work?

The Purpose Economy explains a fundamental shift in our economy towards purpose — our need for relationships, doing something greater than ourselves and personal growth. We see in the last few years that people are hungry for meaning. They look to find it in their jobs where they spend half their waking life. New recruiting firms have began solely to address workers’ need for meaningful jobs. Industry leaders and companies, such as Warby Parker and Etsy, are paying attention and now, more than ever, are integrating purpose with their bottom line.

2. How have Millennials contributed to the creation of the Purpose Economy?

Millennials are the purpose generation. Millennials blur the line between professional development and personal self-expression creating alternative ways to work that is meaningful. Some, for example, freelance for experience rather than committing to one employer or job title. They are entrepreneurial, ambitious and socially oriented, and desire to make a difference, grow and share their passion with the world as we see with Millennial CEOs and founders like Kiip’s Brian Wong and Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian.

3. What do you find happens when Millennials can’t find purpose in their work?

When Millennials don’t find purpose in their work, many times they go outside the organization, volunteering or even quitting their jobs. Traditional thinking says the best way to find more meaningful work is to find a new job or that purpose relates to having a cause — education or the environment — but we discover meaning through our daily work, helping people on our teams and providing consumers with our products and services.

4. What steps can employers take to help Millennials find purpose in their work?

Employers can work with employees to help redesign tasks to better align with their values, strengths and passions in a process called job crafting. For example, Cornerstone Capital Group CEO Erika Karp works with her employees to identify moments of purpose in their work and then helps them to refine their job, making small adjustments to change their engagement at work and boost their meaning.

At Imperative, a career development platform that connects Millennials to their purpose at work, we are working to leverage the learning from workplace researchers to help employers work with their Millennial talent to maximize their purpose at work. We have found six strategies that boost purpose for Millennials and increase their engagement in an organization.

Mentorship is crucial to engaging Millennials at work. Creating effective mentoring programs and cultures isn’t easy. The key to good mentoring for this generation is to be able to develop functional and purpose mentors.  Millennials want role models with similar purpose patterns to help them design their career path that will maximize their sense of purpose and success.

Millennials look for workplaces where they can be themselves and connect with their co-workers, which generates purpose. Employers that create a culture that recognizes the importance of purpose will be able to engage, attract and retain this talent.

5. What do you think will happen if older, traditional employers don’t make an effort to incorporate purpose into their workplace culture?

If employers don’t adapt to the movement towards purpose, they risk missing out on the future Purpose Economy similar to those who failed to adopt technology during the Information Economy.  A traditional employer that continues with a hierarchical approach will turn off Millennials, who seek a more collaborative style of management that supports their desire for independence and transparency. We see this from open-source communities to the rise of co-working spaces and the success of bike sharing.

By 2025, Millennials will be 75 percent of the workforce. Employers, from government to companies to nonprofits, that design their organizations around their needs will be the ones that thrive in the new economy where purposeful work is defining success.

Employers, if you’re trying to better understand the Millennials who work for you and are applying to your organization, read my new white paper:

Millennials white paper

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