Australian millennials are losing faith in profit driven businesses

07 June 2018 5 min. read
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The 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey identifies several key attitudes that Australian millennials hold towards big business and also about the future in general. The findings of the report show that Australia’s youth are pessimistic about the future and that they are discontented with businesses which are driven solely by profit and growth. 

Australian millennials’ opinions of big business and the corporate world are at their lowest in four years. According to the accounting and consulting firm’s 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey – a global study which included 337 Australian Gen Y and Gen Z respondents aged 24 to 35 – Australian youth have treacherously low levels of trust in businesses motivation and ethics.

This is bad news for businesses which want to attract and retain top talent from what has recently become the largest proportion of Australians of working age. The survey identifies that Australian millennials believe that businesses are driven by their own agenda rather than their broader impact on society. 

To appeal to millennials it is thus important for businesses to shift their focus from profit to profit with purpose, suggests the report. In the opinion of millennials corporate businesses should play more of a role in creating a better society by prioritising job creation, innovation, enhancing employees’ lives and careers, and making a positive impact on society and the environment.

Authors of the report, Big Four accounting and consulting firm Deloitte believe that appealing to millennials is fundamental to the success of businesses. David Hill, Deloitte Australia’s COO said; “Millennials – and now Gen Z –are acutely attuned to business’ wider role in society, and overwhelmingly feel business success should be measured beyond financial performance.”

Australian millennials have lost faith in profit driven businesses and are pessimistic about the future

However, the report has identified that in the opinions of millennials, this is not the case and youth confidence in the business sector is plummeting. Of the respondents to the survey, only 45% believe that business plays a positive role in society. This figure is in stark contrast to last year’s 72% and in line with the response to the question “do businesses behave ethically?”, of which only 44% replied in the affirmative. 

“It’s alarming to see this reversal of confidence in business. This significant group of our workforce feels business is placing too high a premium on its own agenda without considering its contribution to society at large. To restore millennials’ trust in business and, by extension, business leaders, companies need to orientate their business toward profit with purpose; and be proactive about making a positive impact in society,” said Hill. 

This years Deloitte Millennial Survey also included a section on what plays on the mind of Australia’s young workers. Unsurprisingly, they are more concerned with issues like climate change, unemployment and income inequality than growth for the sake of growth. This points to the need for well constructed corporate social responsibility narratives which go beyond the usual corporate rhetoric of planting trees and individual employees giving back to the community. 

What do millennials want from businesses?

Deloitte is one of the most appealing workplaces for Australian graduates, winning the Top 100 Graduate Employers in 2017. This is due to multiple factors including a generous starting salary, ongoing mentoring and opportunity to grow internally, and positive company culture. However, this year’s report puts these three factors in perspective and identifies that company culture is more important than money for young workers when choosing a workplace. 

Company culture is the most important factor when millennials are choosing a new employer according to 67% of respondents. This number is far higher than the global average (52%) and identifies that Australia’s youth are increasingly attracted to a company’s greater political/social purpose. This is partly due to the fact that millennials are increasingly pessimistic about the nation’s political leaders and the social and political situation in general.

A staggeringly low number of millennials (23%) believe that politicians are having a positive impact on society, and 63% believe political leaders are actually having a negative impact on society. Faced with rapidly rising housing prices, government attacks on human capital investments and inaction on social and environmental issues, only 39% believe that they will better off than their parents.

Commenting on the fact that this number is much lower than the global average of 51%, Hill said, “Considering the relative strength of the Australian economy globally, it’s notable that our millennials are so pessimistic.” 

“Youth unemployment is at 12.5%, well above the national average of 5.6%, and the rise of the gig economy means work is more uncertain for many. There is a pressing need for us as a nation to prioritise opportunities for our young; they are our future and as digital natives, they hold the keys to our future competitiveness on the global stage.”