Over the past several years, the interests and motivations of millennials and Gen Z have become drivers of many corporate social impact strategies and tactics. As corporate citizenship leaders, it's important to understand their sentiments and priorities as they continue to enter the workforce. These generations have long pushed for social change, but many now feel the world is at a pivotal moment. They are demanding accountability to drive changes that will result in a more equitable and sustainable world.
Deloitte’s 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey, now in its 10th year, finds respondents are channeling their energies toward meaningful action—increasing political involvement, aligning spending and career choices with their values, and driving change on societal issues that matter most to them. In turn, as we have repeatedly found over the years, these generations expect institutions like businesses and governments to do more.
See below for a summary of key findings related to your work and download a copy of the report for more detailed insights.
Environment remains a top issue
Climate change and protecting the environment was millennials’ No. 1 personal concern a year ago. Perhaps unsurprising, this year, health and unemployment fears topped the list of personal concerns for millennials. Yet, their continued focus on environmental issues (coming in third), and the fact that it remains the No. 1 concern for Gen Z—even during a global pandemic, when other threats to their health, family welfare, and careers may feel more imminent—demonstrates how important this issue is for younger generations.
However, approximately 60% of millennials and Gen Zs fear business’ commitment to helping combat climate change will be less of a priority as business leaders reckon with challenges brought on by the pandemic.
Millennials and Gen Zs believe discrimination is widespread, likely enabled by systemic racism across society and major institutions
Six in 10 Gen Zs and 56% of millennials say systemic racism is widespread in general society. However, the past year has prioritized the issue of racial discrimination in such a way that 55% of all survey respondents believe society is “at a tipping point and there will be positive change from this point forward.” Millennials and Gen Zs are doing what they can to address the problem, but are also looking to government and other institutions to accelerate change.
Thirty-four percent of millennials and 38% of Gen Zs believe racism in the workplace is systemic. Because discrimination can become embedded in organizations over time, three in five respondents agree that positive change will only come from the top down—from a change in attitude and actions from those in power. Yet, they don’t believe institutions are living up to their potential. When asked to rank who is making the greatest effort to reduce systemic racism, individuals and activists topped the list ahead of education systems, the legal system and governments.
The role of business in the conversation is uncertain and is potentially downplayed by millennials and Gen Zs. Business’ perceived potential to help bring about significant change is about half that of individuals, education systems, and government. And in terms of who is making the greatest effort to address systemic racism, businesses and business leaders ranked last among the eight choices offered.
Stress and anxiety permeate the workplace, highlighting a growing need for business to focus on better workplace mental health
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought stress to the forefront of social consciousness—41% of millennials and 46% of Gen Zs feel stressed all or most of the time. Finances, family welfare, and job prospects have been the main stress drivers.
This stress spills over into the workplace. About a third of all respondents—31% of millennials and 35% of Gen Zs—have taken time off work due to stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic. However, nearly half of this group gave their employer a different reason for their absence, likely due to a continuing stigma around mental health in the workplace. In fact, only 38% of millennials and 35% of Gen Zs have felt comfortable enough to speak openly with their supervisors about the stress they’re feeling. And approximately 40% say their employers have done a poor job supporting their mental health during the pandemic.
Pandemic heightens financial worries and concerns about wealth inequality
While personal financial concerns increasingly are on their minds, so is wealth inequality as a larger societal issue. Two-thirds of millennials (69%) and Gen Zs (66%) surveyed think wealth and income is distributed unequally throughout society.
Many believe government intervention may be needed to drive change. Nearly a third have voted for or otherwise supported politicians who want to reduce income inequality.
Views on business’ social impact continues to decline, as job loyalty slips
Continuing a steady decline over the last few years, less than half of millennials (47%) and Gen Zs (48%) think business is having a positive impact on society. This marks the first time that figure has dipped below 50%. Of note, it has dropped almost 30 points since 2017.
Job loyalty also slipped a bit from last year’s record high. More millennials and Gen Zs would, if given the opportunity, leave their current employers within two years (36% and 53% respectively, compared to 31% and 50% in 2020) while about the same say they plan to stay at least five years (34% millennials, 21% Gen Zs). And, 44% of millennials and 49% of Gen Zs say they have made choices over the type of work they are prepared to do and the organizations they are willing to work for based on their personal ethics over the past two years.
Repurposed from Deloitte's June 16 press release