By Scott Beaudoin, Global Practice Director, Corporate & Brand Citizenship/PurPle, MSLGROUP
For companies to win in the new reputation economy, they need people to believe in what they stand for and engage them in their citizenship efforts. That is never truer than it is with today’s Millennials who will be roughly 75% of the global workforce by 2030. Millennials are not only our current and future employees (and bosses) but they are our current and future customers. Understanding their personal views and ideals will be the only critical way to help us manage corporate reputation now and well into the future.
What Millennials Want and Expect
According to Deloitte’s third annual Millennial Survey, while most Millennials (74 percent) believe business is having a positive impact on society, by generating jobs (48 percent) and increasing prosperity (71 percent), they think business can do much more to address society’s challenges in the areas of most concern: resource scarcity (68 percent), climate change (65 percent) and income equality (64 percent). Additionally, 50 percent of Millennials surveyed want to work for a business with ethical practices.
Deloitte’s third annual Millennial Survey surveyed nearly 7,800 Millennials from 28 countries across Western Europe, North America, Latin America, BRICS and Asia-Pacific about business, government and innovation. The questionnaire focused on the role business plays in society; its objectives, impact and outcomes; the responsibility of business and government and how well each is addressing the challenges faced by society.
Deloitte’s Millennial Survey also found that Millennials are eager to make a difference. Millennials believe the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance, with a focus on improving society among the most important things it should seek to achieve. Millennials are also charitable and keen to participate in ‘public life’: 63 percent of Millennials donate to charities, 43 percent actively volunteer or are a member of a community organization, and 52 percent have signed petitions.
This intersection of Millennials’ expectations and their eagerness to make a difference provides an opportunity for companies and brands if they are smart enough to seize it. You don’t have to look far to find some companies already maximizing this opportunity and a closer look will show you that these are the companies and brands whose reputations are benefiting from it.
In June of 2013, Reputation Institute, a private global consulting firm based in New York, invited about 47,000 consumers across 15 markets to participate in a study that ranked the world’s 100 most reputable companies–all multinational businesses with a global presence. In addition to finding the companies with the best reputations, the study discovered that people’s willingness to buy, recommend, work for, and invest in a company is driven 60% by their perceptions of the company, and only 40% by their perceptions of the products, says Kasper Ulf Nielsen, Reputation Institute’s executive partner.
Each company earned a “RepTrak™ Pulse” score representing an average measure of people’s feelings for it. The scores were statistically derived from four emotional indicators: trust, esteem, admiration, and good feeling. Reputation Institute then analyzed what it calls the seven dimensions of corporate reputation, including workplace, governance, citizenship, financial performance, leadership, products and services, and innovation.
Three of the seven dimensions that drive reputation (citizenship, governance, and workplace) fall into the CSR category—and analysis shows that 42% of how people feel about a company is based on their perceptions of the firm’s corporate social responsibility practices.
Most reputable corporates & brands: Microsoft
It turns out the corporation with the very best CSR reputation is Microsoft, the Washington state-based software giant. Being a responsible global corporate citizen is a commitment made at all levels of Microsoft.
It’s not a top-down effort, but rather bottom-up. It’s a testament to the company’s worldwide employees and the difference they are making in their local communities. While the company has a small citizenship team at the corporate level, they have citizenship champions across the globe and they work daily in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders on a range of issues important to local communities.
In September 2012, Microsoft refocused much of their efforts around creating opportunities for youth by launching Microsoft YouthSpark, a major initiative to connect hundreds of millions of youth with opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship. The company is working to bridge the opportunity divide that separates youth who have opportunities from those who don’t, with the goal of helping young people secure their individual futures and also the future of society.
Most reputable corporates & brands: Google
Googleis also at the top of the list and continues to be seen as the best company to work for in the world.
Google’s strong workplace perception helps secure its strong reputation overall and within CSR.
In the Reputation Institute’s study, fifty percent of consumers across the 15 countries say they definitely think that Google treats its employees fairly and takes their well being into consideration.
Google knows how to put caring in the hands of the younger generation. “Google China Social Innovation Cup for College Students” is a nationwide competition that aims to empower China’s youth to become agents of social change.
By soliciting project ideas from college students and funding viable proposals, the company hopes to instill in China’s future leaders the values of social responsibility, the importance of community welfare, and the spirit of self-empowerment. Among all colleges and universities that participate in the competition, the 100 that top in the number of proposal submission will share 500 Google “Campus Volunteer Stars” Scholarships every year.
Engaging Millennials around Social Purpose
The Millennial generation has a reputation of being entitled, but this is part of the result of their desire to engage with the world around them. They feel responsible to themselves, their neighbors, their communities and the planet. They grew up learning that their actions directly affect the world around them. In return, they believe companies should act the same way.
The tension lies in the fact that Millennials are notorious for having high employee turnover rate, particularly if their job does not provide a sense of fulfillment. So why would we put our company’s reputation in their hands? It’s easy. They have the potential to be a company’s most ardent supporter and their voices are heard and their messages will travel.
Creating opportunities for Millennials to engage in social purpose is critical.
This could be anything from surveying employees on where to donate a portion of the company’s charitable funds to creating a volunteer program. Millennials are already open to engaging with brands and look for purposeful work. It’s time to start leveraging their potential and incorporating employees into the planning and implementation of purpose goals.
With research indicating that 88 percent of Millennials make employment choices based on a company’s CSR values and 86 percent consider leaving a company if its Corporate Citizenship values no longer met expectations, it’s clear that to lead in the new reputation economy, businesses must have strong voices when it comes to their values and initiatives. The impact of citizenship on the future of reputation is crystal clear.
This post is part of the People’s Insights magazine “The Future of Reputation“