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What You Should Teach Millennials About Values

Self-Actualizing Students’ Needs in Life and the Workplace

Most students go to work for employers following graduation and should know what values create the foundation of a good employee. Broadly, these values indicate a commitment to do what is right regardless of the personal costs. Strong values create a strong work ethic and dedication to one’s purpose in life.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has been around a long time. It describes the basic needs of individuals to be happy and fulfilled in life. Personal fulfillment depends in part of fulfillment in the workplace. Maslow

The basics are for physiological and safety needs. Most people meet those needs on a personal level and workplace experiences provide for them as well. The employment experience must provide a sufficient income and cover basic health needs for employees to achieve higher levels of satisfaction.

Social needs are more important for the millennial generation than others before it. Millennials spend more time at work than previous generations, in part because of the social aspect of jobs and the workplace. Working closely in teams draws millennials closer together. Social ties lead to emotional experiences and the opportunity to build relationships. They inform personal experiences and contribute to a satisfying work experience.

Millennials are more likely to meet their mate at work than previous generations, and they are open to workplace dating experiences. Employers need to support millennials’ need for a sense of connection from work. This is essential to climbing the ladder to the next level of needs.

Millennials look for fulfilling experiences, opportunities for growth and development, satisfying work-team engagement, and a social networking environment that enhances the work experience. This builds self-esteem and moves millennials closer to a purpose-driven workplace experience. It reinforces the foundation necessary to reach self-actualization.

Millennials look for employers to be purpose-driven as well as profit driven. Obviously, pay is a concern, but it shares the stage with other, more outward-centered objectives. The 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey reports the results of 10,455 millennials (Gen Y) questioned across 36 countries. This year’s survey shows Gen Y’s opinion of business motivation and ethics is at the lowest point in three years. About 20 percent said reputation for ethical behavior, diversity and inclusion, as well as workplace wellbeing were important when choosing an employer.

When asked whether they believe in their employer’s priorities (i.e., profits), millennials responded with a resounding no! The percentage who think this is what their employer’s objectives should be are as follows:

Generating jobs      43%         Improving society      39%                               Generating profits      24%

The percentage who think this is what their employer’s objectives are is as follows:

Generating jobs      25%         Improving society      25%                               Generating profits      51%

The Deloitte survey reflects the growing need for inclusion, flexibility in the workplace and a positive work culture. Millennials rated as very important: pay (63%), culture (52%), and flexibility (50%). This year’s survey saw millennials’ view of business motivations fall to its lowest level in three years with less than one-half responding that businesses behave ethically, while 83 percent believe businesses focus more on their bottom line over the good of the greater society.

What does this mean for education in values? First and foremost, values education needs to focus on certain core values that are important in life as well as in the workplace. These include: honesty, trustworthiness, integrity, diversity and inclusion, civility, and work ethic. Based on my experience, few instructors teach students about these values. They may assume students already know about the basics. That may be true but teaching them in the context of a successful workplace experience that builds of Maslow’s foundation and leads to self-actualization is another thing entirely.

If it is true that millennials view employers’ commitment to social causes as wanting, and they seek a more ethical workplace commitment from employers, then it is up to them to transition the workplace to one that truly values social enterprise and supports the notion of a “triple-bottom-line” organization – those simultaneously seeking profits, social impact, and environmental sustainability. It’s up to instructors to incorporate these issues into their curricula.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on June 5, 2018. Visit my website and sign up for my Newsletter.