Deloitte’s past two surveys suggested millennials felt increasingly more positive about business’ motivation and ethics. However, in 2018, there was a dramatic reversal as opinions of business reached their lowest level in four years. Today, less than half of millennials believe businesses behave ethically (48 percent vs 65 percent in 2017) and that business leaders are committed to helping improve society (47 percent vs 62 percent in 2017).
Although some leaders are starting to tackle social issues, millennials have become more skeptical overall of business’ motivation and ethics. The findings were revealed through a survey of 10,455 millennials across 36 countries. Nearly 1,850 Gen Z respondents across six countries who are just entering the workforce were also surveyed about their views on business.
“The results of this year’s survey indicate that the rapid social, technological and geopolitical changes of the past year have had an impact on millennials’ and Gen Z’s views of business, and it should be a wake-up call to leaders everywhere,” says Deloitte Africa director of Organisation Transformation & Talent, Tumi Seakatso, “These cohorts feel business leaders have placed too high a premium on their companies’ agendas without considering their contributions to society at large. Businesses need to identify ways in which they can positively impact the communities they work in and focus on issues such as diversity, inclusion and flexibility if they want to earn the trust and loyalty of millennial and Gen Z workers.”
As highlighted over the past six years, millennials—and now Gen Z—are acutely attuned to business’ wider role in society, and overwhelmingly feel that business success should be measured beyond financial performance. They believe business’ priorities should be job creation, innovation, enhancing employees’ lives and careers, and making a positive impact on society and the environment. However, when asked what their organizations focus on, they cited generating profit, driving efficiencies, and producing or selling goods and services—the three areas they felt should have the least focus. They recognize businesses must make a profit to achieve the priorities millennials desire but believe businesses should set out to achieve a broader balance of objectives along with financial performance.