After the past two years of nearly every sphere of society being upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is wondering what will become our new normal. Millennials, with their voices, their involvement and their power, are shaping it.
While Gen Z are undoubtedly today’s trendsetters, millennials are the new power-holders driving societal change. Millennials make up the majority of the workforce. They hold most of the leadership positions within organizations. They often have the resources to help significantly move the needle on social issues. For business leaders to stay relevant in a post-pandemic world, we need to prioritize our understanding of millennials as the leaders of social change.
Points of Light teamed up with research and design firm INFLUENCE|SG to conduct a study on civic engagement among the millennial generation. We were interested in the perspective of this group in particular, for whom social issues prompting civic action have become highly personal. The research showed some interesting trends. Five of the six social issues millennials said were of most interest to them were pandemic-related. Of course, this is to be expected.
But the issues that millennials took action to support were not, in fact, their issues of highest concern. 93% of respondents said the social issue for which they performed at least one action in the past year was civil rights/racial discrimination/social justice. 92% said they performed at least one action in the past year for the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.
As social unrest continues and as some workers begin to return to offices, companies and brands need to create a culture of civic engagement and—more importantly—opportunities to channel employees' desire to act, especially as it relates to millennials.
In a recent Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report, 59% of people currently leaving their jobs say they want an employer that shares their values. Seven in ten employees say they expect opportunities for social impact from their employer. And 61% say they will not work at a company if they disagree with its stand on social issues.
Without a doubt, socially engaged businesses recruit and retain more employees. Providing employees with opportunities for civic engagement isn’t just about doing the right thing; it’s better for companies’ bottom lines. In order for companies to seize the moment, satisfy their workforce and maintain business continuity, there are some key strategies to start implementing.
Have a purpose and platform for civic engagement to drive social impact and leverage employees' desire to make a difference. Our research in 2020 confirmed that not knowing where and how to volunteer are the biggest barriers for those who have not volunteered but are interested. Make it easy for employees to understand what’s important to the company and how to get involved. In November, our partners at RW Institute will release their 2021 edition of the Corporate Volunteering, Giving and Grants Technology Review for those looking for technology solution that makes social impact opportunities accessible to everyone across your company’s footprint.
Next, engage in meaningful dialogue with employees, partners and competitors about how we all can address old systems that don't work for our new world order. The millennial research showed that the number one action taken to support social issues was spending time learning about them. We launched a partnership with Morehouse College called Listen. Learn. Act to End Racism on a diverse set of topics to inspire and educate. AT&T offered employees a 21-day challenge and Altria took up the mantle and created their own.
Educate employees and stakeholders about how they can get involved and what individual actions they can take to make an impact. We developed the Points of Light Civic Circle as a framework to help individuals understand that doing good comes in many forms. Companies can use the framework to ensure they have opportunities that align with Civic Circle components and encourage employees to use their vote, their purchase power and their voice.
Provide opportunities for employees to be civically engaged and give them the time off to do so. Of the 2021 Civic 50 honorees, 88% provide employees with time off or flexible scheduling to vote, while 82% do the same for volunteering. Companies of any size can help facilitate civic action by offering opportunities to get involved, and making them easily findable. We’ve even got templates and examples on CECE to help build your company’s Volunteer Time Off policy.
Recognize individuals for their impact. Creating incentives for employees to be engaged, whether through internal communications spotlights or organizational awards or merits, shows that the company cares about civic engagement and wants to highlight employees making a difference. Check out these resources on volunteer recognition on CECE as well as the President’s Volunteer Service Award and Daily Point of Light Award.
Fostering civic engagement is critical for companies to reach, recruit and retain the millennial generation — the generation deciding what our future looks like. 47% of respondents in our study said the pandemic has made them think more than ever before that people like them should try to make a difference to improve our communities and our country. 38% said they have always thought it was important to get involved in social issues. And 69% said they’re now more likely to volunteer than ever before.
Finally, it’s critical that organizations — whether nonprofit or for-profit — are genuine with their communication. It’s not simply about asking for support with the latest issue. Organizations must recognize that they’re reaching out to a generation that feels personally affected by these issues. Asking millennials what they need and how you can partner with them to achieve the desired goal is going to have the biggest impact. In this way, organizations become a conduit for millennial civic engagement, influencing social issues to build back better as we forge ahead post-pandemic.