When deciding on an employer, younger generations are focused on the big picture, not just on the next paycheck.
Although recent university graduates are facing a tough labour market thanks to the economic downturn caused by Covid-19, young people say a company’s values – and not just its balance sheet – are important to them when deciding to accept a job offer.
A study conducted in late 2019 by data analytics firm Peakon of 11 million pieces of employee feedback from around the globe showed that while members of all generations value things like fair pay and work-life balance, only members of Generation Z (people born between 1997-2012) valued an employer with strong social positions. According to the study, Generation Z is “the only generation to reference social concerns within employee comments.”
The study’s results came as no surprise to Chris Meah, Segment Marketing Specialist with Wärtsilä in the UK. “For my generation, we’re looking at the impact we’re having with our jobs. Now more than ever, we realise how short an amount of time we have, and we want to make the time we do have as valuable as possible,” Meah says.
Martin Mendl, an HR Manager with Wärtsilä in Argentina, who is a member of the Millennial generation (born between 1981-1996), agrees that it’s important for his generation to make an impact — and there’s one area they would particularly like to influence. “My generation is very preoccupied with the environment. We want to help to improve it, and we are concerned about what we are leaving for the future generations,” Mendl says.
Mendl’s assertion that environmental policies are key for his generation when evaluating potential employers is backed up by research. According to the Peakon study, the comments of younger employees about their employers’ social impact were focused on sustainability policies. “Raised in a time when the effects of climate change are making weekly headlines, it shows that they care deeply about the world around them, with comments referring to plastic use in the workplace,” the study reported.
For Mendl, though, making the world a better place goes far beyond workplace recycling programs and paper straws in the cafeteria. “There are certain sectors or industries where we can really make a change in this world. I wanted to start working in an industry where you can start making an impact and working towards change.”
Saara Eder-Falck, People Support Hub Lead at Wärtsilä, says that message is one the company promotes, especially when recruiting younger employees.
“Wartsilä as a company is working in two distinct markets, energy and marine, but what unites us is that we are trying to do something good for the world. We focus on this strong purpose,” Eder-Falck says. “We used to be a company where most applications came from people whose goal was to be part of a company that was long established, but we are no longer looked at as that traditional,” Eder-Falck says. “People now come to us because they are inspired by the opportunities in the industries where we work and what we are actually doing. We are talking about things that will have a huge impact on how the world will look in the future.”
Anette Danielsson, a Market Development Analyst for Wärtsilä Energy Business in Helsinki, says that messaging resonated with her. Although Danielsson’s educational background is in the politics of the energy industry, she applied for a job at Wärtsilä because of the potential to have a more substantive impact on the environment.
“I’m sure that the description of a path to a zero-emissions future and a focus on building a sustainable future was part of the job ad, and that’s one of the reasons I applied,” Danielsson says. “I think it’s important to have a feeling that you are helping to create a better world. It sounds a bit naïve, but that’s important. When I was looking for a job, it was about it was about combining things I found interesting with values I felt the company should have.”
Eder-Falck says that the younger generation’s focus on big picture priorities actually dovetails well with the needs of employers facing a volatile economy. “The world is changing at such a rapid pace; you have to be able to adjust no matter what your role is. All jobs change all the time. Having a strong sense of purpose, not just on a company level but also individually, also strengthens resilience during more difficult times,” she says.
Mendl feels it is important to promote the company's core message of building sustainable societies for the next generations, especially in parts of the world where the company is still growing.
“This is important for growing market share and also to get more young people interested in our company. We need to adapt our way of working and our way of living to this new generation, based on their ideas about sustainability,” Mendl says.