Beyond The Millennial Stereotype: Passion, Authenticity, And Purpose

Nancy Langmeyer

I must say I’m guilty. Yes, I’m one of the many people in the world that has stereotyped millennials. I believed the research I read and thought the most common labels associated with this generation – entitled, lazy, adventure-seeking, job-hopping, and disrespectful of older colleagues – were right on the money.

And of course, those stereotypes must be true if they show up on American reality TV, right? The 2016 season of “Survivor” pitted the so-called instant-gratification, fun-loving millennials against the older, more methodical and conservative Gen Xers. Described as “old ideas versus new ideas,” the show glorified the generational differences (at least after its artful editing), such as highlighting when one millennial noted that he “will never grow up.” Now, interestingly enough, the carefree, pleasure-seeking millennials are holding their own, with one more tribe member remaining than the Gen Xers as the season nears completion (at the time of this writing). 

But wait…is this fair to this generation?

After having admitted that I believed the hype about millennials, it may be hard to imagine that I try to avoid stereotypes, but I do. I know from experience that global characterizations are nearly ever 100% correct, and shame on me for collectively believing the ones about millennials.

The “Survivor” show was a tipping point for me, as I said to myself, “Enough…the world needs to give this generation a break.” This feeling was fueled by the fact that I’ve been lucky enough to work with several millennials as they developed blogs for a series called Millennials on Purpose. The blogs focus on this generation’s view of purpose-driven business and I learned quite a bit from each person’s submission.

Now, having interacted one-on-one with these millennials over the last couple of months, I know without a doubt that like any stereotypes, the ones slapped on these young people are not one-size-fits-all labels.

Here’s what millennials really care about…

What I have learned is there are several commonly shared traits that millennials are quite proud of, but that don’t often show up in the research. For instance, the millennials I have interacted with seem to be universally proud of their innate ability to see the truth. As one millennial, Thomas Leisen says, “Millennials have really good BS-sniffers when it comes to authenticity.” Sam Yeoman, another millennial I’m working with, says his generation is “wary of anyone trying to sell us something.”

Why is this attitude prevalent? Well, because if anything fishy is detected, these self-proclaimed smartphone addicts will be the first to Google it and they will rapidly uncover the truth.

What about work-life balance, and putting life – and fun – first? According to Leisen, he said this is another myth. He and the millennials he knows are passionate about their careers, despite the fact that are often bashed for job hopping and their readiness to take the next big job offering. Again, Leisen deflects this characterization, noting that he personally would love to grow and develop his skills within one organization.

Another millennial, Jessica Gutierrez agrees, saying that she wouldn’t categorize millennials as caring more about work-life balance than about going the extra mile. “When a company gives millennials a chance,” says Gutierrez, “they will have incredible loyalty and be willing to stay longer, work harder, work smarter, and invest in their career.”

So what really makes them tick?

Beyond the hype, the myths, and the stereotyping, what are millennials really passionate about? What do they value? It’s pretty simple, when it gets right down to it – they care about things like purpose, values, and sustainability, and they want to work for businesses that are vocal about these attributes.

Kishore Kumar, a contributor to the Millennial series, says in his blog, “I believe why a business exists is almost more important than how well it is run. I also believe it is critical for businesses to find their core purpose, and then pursue it relentlessly, if they want to be successful.”

In her blog, Gutierrez says, “I believe that millennials will gravitate toward organizations that demonstrate their purpose and values in the culture and work environment. In turn, millennial employees will be influenced by their working environment and will begin to live out the purpose, values, and strategy that the organization embodies.”

And from millennial Faith Woo’s perspective, sustainability is another lens through which she and her peers can examine the impact of purpose-driven business. “Championing a cause and promoting a purpose engages and inspires millennials,” says Woo in her blog, “and I believe we value companies with a strong environmental and social record.”

I agree here and now to stop…

I personally am finished stereotyping millennials and will seek out more articles like this piece, which Gutierrez shared with me, that bust up the myths about this generation. And I now wholeheartedly believe pieces like this one, which shares research that states millennials “are loyal to companies that allow them to stay true to their personal and family values.”

Get to know a millennial today – you might just be surprised at what you find below the surface. Or, if you’d like to get to know the ones I’ve worked with, then you can meet these SAP millennials here as they personally share their passions and their insights about purpose-driven businesses.

This blog is part of our Millennials on Purpose series. To learn more about SAP’s higher purpose to help the world run better and improve people’s lives, visit sap.com/purpose.

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Nancy Langmeyer

About Nancy Langmeyer

Nancy Langmeyer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant. She works with some of the largest technology companies in the world and is a frequent blogger. You'll see some under her name...and then there are others that you won't see. These are ones where Nancy interviews marketing executives and leaders and turns their insights into thought leadership pieces..

Why Corporate Social Responsibility Could Be Your Next Strategic Priority

Derek Klobucher

When organizations do the right thing, value can extend far beyond the good deed itself. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) can help drive better business outcomes, attract like-minded partners, increase employee engagement and more.

“Just like human resources years ago … CSR is going to grow into a strategic partner in the company,” John Matthews, SAP’s global vice president of HCM LoB Business Partner, Global Customer Strategy & Business Operations, said on Changing The Game with HR last week. “Doing good is also good for business.”

CSR refers to how organizations go above and beyond to evaluate and own their environmental and social impacts. But growing into strategic partnership with other, more quantifiable lines of business would require objective CSR metrics.

Quantifying good deeds

“We’re going to see the emergence of an index that captures the corporate social responsibility agenda … the responsibility with which companies act,” Chris Johnson, senior partner at New York-based human resources consulting firm Mercer, said on Changing the Game with HR. “And the index will be a key part of how the company will be accountable to its shareholders.”

If this seems farfetched, consider that shareholders are also beginning to demand sustainability. And organizations already get rated as best places to work, on work-life balance, and many other ratings; and Mercer even sponsors the Britain’s Healthiest Company index.

Johnson predicts a CSR index within the decade.

“It could be a very public account—a transparency and public accountability thing,” Johnson said. Advocacy groups “will be able to go to those companies that are low down [on] the index, and offer them a way of clamoring up the index and demonstrating their broader responsibility to society.”

“People love to work for a corporation that is paying it forward,” Bonnie J. Addario, founder of the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, said.

But CSR-minded organizations will still want a return on investment.

Paying it forward

“Corporate social responsibility also helps the bottom line, meaning that it helps you build trust with customers, employees, as well as with your suppliers,” SAP’s Matthews said. “If you give them that guidance, that direction, and you’re clear on what matters, others will come running to you—and come running with you to help solve problems.”

One of Matthews’ “problems” is a 3,400-mile bicycle ride across the U.S. to raise awareness—and funds—for lung cancer research; he’s doing so in memory of his late mother who died of the disease. Whether the issue is healthcare, education or implementing design elements that cut costs by increasing energy efficiency, corporate social responsibility can be an effective way to increase employee engagement.

“People love to work for a corporation that is paying it forward,” Bonnie J. Addario, founder of the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, said on Changing the Game with HR. “It’s not always about money … it’s about involvement—it’s about having an emotional connection.”

“We’re going to see the emergence of an index that captures the corporate social responsibility agenda … the responsibility with which companies act,” Chris Johnson, senior partner at New York-based human resources consulting firm Mercer, said.

More than a cause

“CSR is becoming much more of a heritage asset, meaning people prefer their service efforts to leave lasting effects,” Kevin Xu, CEO of global intellectual property management company MEBO International, stated on Forbes CommunityVoice last month. “Rather than championing campaigns that make big splashes, businesses want to build and work toward causes that resonate with and get carried on by younger generations.”

These efforts can lead to new partnerships with like-minded organizations—what a wireless solutions provider’s CEO called a “return on doing good,” as opposed to a simple return on investment. And it’s a great way to build pride within the organization.

“I’ve already had 30 people from SAP from all across the world … who just heard what we were doing, and said, ‘How can I help?’” SAP’s Matthews said. “And it grows every day … so I’m very happy, fortunate, and proud to work for SAP.”

This story originally appeared on SAP’s Business TrendsClick here for a replay of this episode. And click here to learn more about Matthews’ ride. Follow Derek on Twitter@DKlobucher

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Derek Klobucher

About Derek Klobucher

Derek Klobucher is a Brand Journalist, Content Marketer and Master Digital Storyteller at SAP. His responsibilities include conceiving, developing and conducting global, company-wide employee brand journalism training; managing content, promotion and strategy for social networks and online media; and mentoring SAP employees, contractors and interns to optimize blogging and social media efforts.

Diversity Is Hard Work And Requires Rethinking

Anka Wittenberg

In the third episode of the SAP Future Factor series, I sat down with Iris Bohnet, professor of public policy and behavioral economist at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, to talk about the positive impact of diversity in the workplace for employee engagement and the business bottom line. We also talked about what it takes for companies to create an inclusive work environment.

Hint: It does not happen overnight.

Anka: As we discussed during our SAP Future Factor episode, an increasing number of companies are paying attention to diversity in the workplace.

Iris: Yes, workplaces today are much more heterogenous. Companies recognize that this heterogeneity is an asset. There is a lot of evidence that diverse teams tend to outperform homogenous teams in terms of creativity, innovation, and group processes.

Anka: There is also a strong business case for diversity and inclusion, which are linked to employee engagement. At SAP, we tracked an increase of 48 million euros on operational profit per year by increasing employee engagement by one percent alone. And, to your point, we see a huge benefit for innovation. Research has consistently shown that the more diverse your teams are, the more innovative you are. To tap into that innovative potential, we use a “design thinking” approach to the way we work at SAP, which means that we work with diverse teams to evaluate an issue from different angles and come up with out-of-the-box ideas.

Furthermore, diversity is important for a company to be able to relate to their customers – the diversity of customers needs to be reflected in the diversity of employees. However, diversity is also increasing complexity – which brings up its own set of challenges.

Iris: Certainly. Diversity is hard work. It is hard work for the exact reason that makes it an asset – bringing together a diversity of perspectives. This helps us consider issues from different angles, but can also be a trigger for debate, argument, disagreement. However, we can’t afford to forget that if we all have the same perspective, we will only move in one direction.

Many companies are implementing diversity training. Diversity training itself may not solve the problem, but it can open doors, and we can integrate technology to help us begin “redesigning” the way we work and even how we learn. From your perspective, what are some of the technologies that will have a positive impact in terms of making companies more diverse and inclusive?

Anka: Technology can be helpful in discovering and eliminating unconscious bias across the HR lifecycle. For example, software can identify biased language in job postings and suggest alternatives, so that companies can source talent more broadly. Machine learning is used to put together diverse teams. I truly believe that technology is a catalyst for change that helps us become aware of unconscious biases and create a more inclusive environment.

However, it’s important to recognize that each company faces its own unique set of challenges. The same company may even experience different challenges in different geographic regions. For example, recruitment might be an issue in one region, but in another, it may be the retention of talent. Given that, it’s critical to identify where the blind spots are, and then put clear action items behind it.

Iris: Precisely. Unfortunately, many companies and governments continue to throw money at the problem without diagnosing what is broken. It’s important to understand what the challenge is and then intervene strategically. For example, I worked with a tech company that found out that it was much less biased based on gender and race than it thought, but on the flipside, had a much bigger disciplinary bias. Blind evaluation, as we discuss in the Future Factor episode, can be helpful in terms of eliminating implicit bias in hiring.

Anka: Adopting an inclusive mindset and embracing diversity go beyond recruitment. As you mentioned earlier, we have a much more heterogeneous workforce today. For example, at SAP, we have a workforce that spans five generations. We have programs in place, such as “Autism at Work,” to recruit differently abled individuals who excel at certain tasks but may have a different way of working. This means that we need to change the norms around work to integrate individuals with different backgrounds, expectations, and working styles.

Iris: I couldn’t agree more. Previously when we talked about flexibility, it was pretty much associated with women. But now, we have a whole new generation of people with different needs, including requiring more flexible work arrangements for various reasons such as child care or elder care or simply because they want to pursue interests outside of work. It is a surprise for many companies that employees are no longer defining themselves with work.

Anka: Thank you, Iris, for being part of the SAP Future Factor series and for your support and guidance in helping SAP achieve its goal of 25% women in leadership. As you know, it was a journey over many years, but we built a strategy around the goal and now have an environment that is inclusive of the thoughts and opinions of men and women in management. This allows us to better serve an increasingly diverse customer base, attract and retain talent, and compete in the global economy.

Before we conclude, I want to congratulate you on the publication of the German edition of your book, What Works: Gender Equality by Design. It is an excellent resource for understanding organizational dynamics and design in relation to diversity and inclusion.

To watch the entire discussion between SAP chief diversity officer Anka Wittenberg and Prof. Iris Bohnet, click here

For more on digitization, work, and HR, visit Episode 1 and Episode 2 of the SAP Future Factor Web Salon, in which HR executives and thought leaders from science/academia discuss the digitization of work.

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Anka Wittenberg

About Anka Wittenberg

Anka Wittenberg is the Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at SAP. She is responsible for the development and implementation of SAP’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy globally, ensuring sustainable business success.

Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences

Kai Goerlich

 

Google Cardboard VR goggles cost US$8
By 2019, immersive solutions
will be adopted in 20% of enterprise businesses
By 2025, the market for immersive hardware and software technology could be $182 billion
In 2017, Lowe’s launched
Holoroom How To VR DIY clinics

From Dipping a Toe to Fully Immersed

The first wave of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) is here,

using smartphones, glasses, and goggles to place us in the middle of 360-degree digital environments or overlay digital artifacts on the physical world. Prototypes, pilot projects, and first movers have already emerged:

  • Guiding warehouse pickers, cargo loaders, and truck drivers with AR
  • Overlaying constantly updated blueprints, measurements, and other construction data on building sites in real time with AR
  • Building 3D machine prototypes in VR for virtual testing and maintenance planning
  • Exhibiting new appliances and fixtures in a VR mockup of the customer’s home
  • Teaching medicine with AR tools that overlay diagnostics and instructions on patients’ bodies

A Vast Sea of Possibilities

Immersive technologies leapt forward in spring 2017 with the introduction of three new products:

  • Nvidia’s Project Holodeck, which generates shared photorealistic VR environments
  • A cloud-based platform for industrial AR from Lenovo New Vision AR and Wikitude
  • A workspace and headset from Meta that lets users use their hands to interact with AR artifacts

The Truly Digital Workplace

New immersive experiences won’t simply be new tools for existing tasks. They promise to create entirely new ways of working.

VR avatars that look and sound like their owners will soon be able to meet in realistic virtual meeting spaces without requiring users to leave their desks or even their homes. With enough computing power and a smart-enough AI, we could soon let VR avatars act as our proxies while we’re doing other things—and (theoretically) do it well enough that no one can tell the difference.

We’ll need a way to signal when an avatar is being human driven in real time, when it’s on autopilot, and when it’s owned by a bot.


What Is Immersion?

A completely immersive experience that’s indistinguishable from real life is impossible given the current constraints on power, throughput, and battery life.

To make current digital experiences more convincing, we’ll need interactive sensors in objects and materials, more powerful infrastructure to create realistic images, and smarter interfaces to interpret and interact with data.

When everything around us is intelligent and interactive, every environment could have an AR overlay or VR presence, with use cases ranging from gaming to firefighting.

We could see a backlash touting the superiority of the unmediated physical world—but multisensory immersive experiences that we can navigate in 360-degree space will change what we consider “real.”


Download the executive brief Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences.


Read the full article Swimming in the Immersive Digital Experience.

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Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation. Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.heif Futu

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Jenny Dearborn: Soft Skills Will Be Essential for Future Careers

Jenny Dearborn

The Japanese culture has always shown a special reverence for its elderly. That’s why, in 1963, the government began a tradition of giving a silver dish, called a sakazuki, to each citizen who reached the age of 100 by Keiro no Hi (Respect for the Elders Day), which is celebrated on the third Monday of each September.

That first year, there were 153 recipients, according to The Japan Times. By 2016, the number had swelled to more than 65,000, and the dishes cost the already cash-strapped government more than US$2 million, Business Insider reports. Despite the country’s continued devotion to its seniors, the article continues, the government felt obliged to downgrade the finish of the dishes to silver plating to save money.

What tends to get lost in discussions about automation taking over jobs and Millennials taking over the workplace is the impact of increased longevity. In the future, people will need to be in the workforce much longer than they are today. Half of the people born in Japan today, for example, are predicted to live to 107, making their ancestors seem fragile, according to Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, professors at the London Business School and authors of The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity.

The End of the Three-Stage Career

Assuming that advances in healthcare continue, future generations in wealthier societies could be looking at careers lasting 65 or more years, rather than at the roughly 40 years for today’s 70-year-olds, write Gratton and Scott. The three-stage model of employment that dominates the global economy today—education, work, and retirement—will be blown out of the water.

It will be replaced by a new model in which people continually learn new skills and shed old ones. Consider that today’s most in-demand occupations and specialties did not exist 10 years ago, according to The Future of Jobs, a report from the World Economic Forum.

And the pace of change is only going to accelerate. Sixty-five percent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist, the report notes.

Our current educational systems are not equipped to cope with this degree of change. For example, roughly half of the subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree, such as computer science, is outdated by the time students graduate, the report continues.

Skills That Transcend the Job Market

Instead of treating post-secondary education as a jumping-off point for a specific career path, we may see a switch to a shorter school career that focuses more on skills that transcend a constantly shifting job market. Today, some of these skills, such as complex problem solving and critical thinking, are taught mostly in the context of broader disciplines, such as math or the humanities.

Other competencies that will become critically important in the future are currently treated as if they come naturally or over time with maturity or experience. We receive little, if any, formal training, for example, in creativity and innovation, empathy, emotional intelligence, cross-cultural awareness, persuasion, active listening, and acceptance of change. (No wonder the self-help marketplace continues to thrive!)

The three-stage model of employment that dominates the global economy today—education, work, and retirement—will be blown out of the water.

These skills, which today are heaped together under the dismissive “soft” rubric, are going to harden up to become indispensable. They will become more important, thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning, which will usher in an era of infinite information, rendering the concept of an expert in most of today’s job disciplines a quaint relic. As our ability to know more than those around us decreases, our need to be able to collaborate well (with both humans and machines) will help define our success in the future.

Individuals and organizations alike will have to learn how to become more flexible and ready to give up set-in-stone ideas about how businesses and careers are supposed to operate. Given the rapid advances in knowledge and attendant skills that the future will bring, we must be willing to say, repeatedly, that whatever we’ve learned to that point doesn’t apply anymore.

Careers will become more like life itself: a series of unpredictable, fluid experiences rather than a tightly scripted narrative. We need to think about the way forward and be more willing to accept change at the individual and organizational levels.

Rethink Employee Training

One way that organizations can help employees manage this shift is by rethinking training. Today, overworked and overwhelmed employees devote just 1% of their workweek to learning, according to a study by consultancy Bersin by Deloitte. Meanwhile, top business leaders such as Bill Gates and Nike founder Phil Knight spend about five hours a week reading, thinking, and experimenting, according to an article in Inc. magazine.

If organizations are to avoid high turnover costs in a world where the need for new skills is shifting constantly, they must give employees more time for learning and make training courses more relevant to the future needs of organizations and individuals, not just to their current needs.

The amount of learning required will vary by role. That’s why at SAP we’re creating learning personas for specific roles in the company and determining how many hours will be required for each. We’re also dividing up training hours into distinct topics:

  • Law: 10%. This is training required by law, such as training to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

  • Company: 20%. Company training includes internal policies and systems.

  • Business: 30%. Employees learn skills required for their current roles in their business units.

  • Future: 40%. This is internal, external, and employee-driven training to close critical skill gaps for jobs of the future.

In the future, we will always need to learn, grow, read, seek out knowledge and truth, and better ourselves with new skills. With the support of employers and educators, we will transform our hardwired fear of change into excitement for change.

We must be able to say to ourselves, “I’m excited to learn something new that I never thought I could do or that never seemed possible before.” D!

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