This post was written by Derrick Feldmann on behalf of the Case Foundation:
Who will you influence?
If you’ve ever had the experience of managing other employees, you understand just how influential (for better or worse) your words and actions can be.
Of course, your colleagues have lives and relationships outside of work, but we spend a significant portion of the day with our co-workers. As supervisors, we yield tremendous potential to influence employees, learn their passions and leverage them to cultivate a more engaged workforce. The question is whether or not we will recognize and use this influence for the benefit of social good.
Last year, I moderated a discussion on corporate social responsibility and Millennial engagement for an event at a large telecommunications company. On stage, I led a panel that included a Millennial employee who had been at the company for two years and her direct supervisor. During the discussion, it became clear to me that the Millennial employee was looking for her supervisor’s approval and encouragement to participate in the company’s cause work. However, the employee’s direct supervisor maintained a passive stance during their responses.
These dynamics made me wonder: Who influences a Millennial employee to participate in a company-wide day of service? What inspires Millennials and their managers to donate through company-sponsored giving? How does the manager’s views on company cause work influence the employees? And what about the CEO?
In last year’s study, we learned that Millennials look to their employer to be active in social good and that company-sponsored cause work helps cultivate a well-rounded, motivated work culture. But we still wanted to know who encourages participation in company cause work. What inspires Millennial employees to move from the point of interest to a place of action?
The purpose of this year’s 2015 Millennial Impact Report is to understand the relationships between Millennial employees and their managers. The average American employee spends 47 hours a week in the workplace. As Millennials increasingly make up the majority of many companies, we have to shape cultures that empower this generation of “do-gooders.”
In our first phase of research, we’ve found that Millennial employees are essentially disrupting the traditional hierarchy of influence. Most companies are modeled on the premise that the highest ranking employee (the CEO) influences participation and culture the most, followed by other executives, managers and then peers. However, our research shows that for Millennials, their managers or direct supervisors influence participation and culture the most when it comes to corporate social responsibility and company cause work.
In fact, peers and direct co-workers are the most likely individuals to influence Millennial employees to participate in company cause work. Managers also influence participation, and direct managers carry much more influence than higher-level executive employees. Over 27 percent of Millennial employees said they are more likely to donate to a cause if their supervisor does; while 46 percent of employees are likely to donate if a co-worker asks them to. Interestingly, only 21percent of Millennial employees said they are more likely to make a donation if the CEO or a top-ranking executive asks them to.
Today, we see influence growing more at the bottom of the hierarchy. A manager’s personal involvement with causes directly impacts engagement for the employees they supervise. Basically, corporate culture and CSR engagement still require executive-level buy-in, but grassroots support is vital all the way down to the peer level if you want to see true involvement.
To get the full report and recommendations from this year’s study, download the 2015 Millennial Impact Report, which will be available for free on Wednesday, June 24.
You can get an advanced copy of the report buy purchasing an in-person Premium Ticket to MCON 2015, happening June 24-25 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Can’t make it to Chicago? Sign up to watch MCON online for free.
Derrick Feldmann is the producer of MCON, the nation’s premier conference on Millennials and causes. He leads the research efforts for The Millennial Impact Project and serves as president of Achieve, a research and creative agency for causes.