Purpose-driven work: For the changing workforce

Photo © World Bank

Last year, I had the opportunity to attend a private reception for Professor Klaus Schwab – founder of the World Economic Forum (originally known as the European Management Forum). Since its creation more than thirty years ago, the World Economic Forum has remained true to its purpose: to bring together world leaders, the business community and members of civil society to build relations, and create dialogue on a range of issues that cross borders with its international implications. Many of the questions directed at Professor Schwab were of course centered on the current political climate since the election of President Trump, but there were also concerns raised regarding the future of the workforce – in the context of the ambiguity for future workforce needs and with the growing use of artificial intelligence.

The one thing that stuck with me after that dialogue is how the Professor emphasized the importance of the growing interest to move from materialistic gain to well-being or purpose-driven work. It is with that understanding that for businesses to survive, one has to evolve its business model to address this growing appetite – sparked by a changing workforce. As a millennial, I’m well aware of the need many of us share to do something we can feel good about, something that gives us purpose and feeds more than our bank account (although money is welcomed… especially considering our growing student loan debt). For instance, five facts employers and businesses should keep in mind:

  1. By next year, millennials will account for 36% of the U.S. workforce and by 2025, they will account for 75% of the global workplace. [U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics / The Business and Professional Women’s Foundation]
  2. 92% believe that business success should be measured by more than profit. [Deloitte]
  3. 81% have donated money, goods or services. [Walden University and Harris Interactive]
  4. 75% see themselves as authentic and are not willing to compromise their family and personal values. [Bentley University’s Center For Women And Business]
  5. 61% of millennials are worried about the state of the world and feel personally responsible for making a difference. [Huffington Post]

To help adapt, many companies have increased their corporate social responsibility contributions that tags at the values of its workers and consumers. It creates opportunities for transparency, and it allows for people to feel like their hard earned money is being reinvested back into the communities where companies are profiting off.  It’s important to note that the added value for CSR doesn’t just seem like the “right thing” to do, but it also can positively impact a company’s bottom line and builds brand loyalty. A report published in 2013 by Cone Communications and Echo Research showed that 82 percent of the U.S. consumer take into consideration the corporate social responsibility (CSR) when deciding what products to purchase. To help consumers decide, there are now a number of online tools – like “The Good Guide” and “B Corp”.

If there were ever a misconception that business has no role to play to improve social conditions, that can no longer be the case. I deliberately went to college for a business degree because I understood the implications of using business as a tool to fill the gaps that government either can’t or won’t; I also knew that I didn’t have to work for an NGO or elected official to change the world. Which is why I have also been conscious of where I work and how I spend my money because it’s a direct representation of who I am and how I show up in the world around me.

Jamira Burley is the Head of Youth Engagement and Skills at the Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education). Jamira is leading the Youth Skills and Innovation Initiative, which strives to tackle the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and ensure that young people everywhere are equipped with the tools to operate in a future workforce. To learn more about the initiative, follow the link here or contact Jamira Burley at [email protected]

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