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Don’t wait — the time to create a millennial-friendly company is now

When it comes to charting brand allegiance, few metrics are more respected than Enso’s World Value Index. And the most recent update, which just dropped on the public this month, has some hard truths for legacy brands I think we all need to see.

The index basically charts how Americans feel about brands through a representative survey. How much do we connect with the company’s purpose? How much do we feel like the company aligns with values we hold dear? And, most importantly for the brands themselves, how likely are we to advocate for them and buy products from them based on how we feel about their mission?

All the expected brands are there. Goodwill is No. 1, and the Girl Scouts of America are the No. 2 spot, which shouldn’t surprise us based on the mission of each. But the real intrigue is in the split between what millennials value in a brand and what baby boomers value.

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The biggest-moving brands for millennials? Twitter, Starbucks, Spotify, and Kickstarter. And for baby boomers? Proctor & Gamble, Pfizer, Hewlett-Packard and Newman’s Own. The difference between the two is obvious; millennials are investing their time, money and careers in newer brands that speak value into the market in a newer way than the legacy corporations with a less defined mission.

Each of these major corporations needs to think long and hard about what it does next to woo back the popular opinion of the biggest generation ever. There are even more millennials than baby boomers.

At FPG, we firmly believe every company needs to be built to operate at peak efficiency in a business world increasingly being run by the millennial generation. Here are three ways I’ve personally seen millennials in my company and elsewhere look for value in companies and brands, and how to woo them back the FPG way.

Millennials want to work for purpose, not paycheck

In the same Enso survey, the administrators asked different age groups the same questions based on the companies they value. One of the questions was telling: “Creating change in the world is a personal goal of mine that I actively pursue.” The general population moderately agreed at 54%, but a whopping 68% of millennials aligned with this statement. The baby boomers? Not so much, at just 42%. What’s more, 41% of millennials said they’d recently taken concrete action (protested in a march, volunteered on a campaign, canvassed a neighborhood for signatures) on an issue that is important to them. Baby boomers did that just 17% of the time.

The takeaway here is that millennials want to advocate for (and ultimately work for) places that give them purpose and allow them to chase personal goals. The reason Proctor & Gamble is popular with baby boomers and not at all with millennials is because the younger generation sees more conscious capitalism in places like Whole Foods and Kickstarter, which advertise themselves as epicenters of world change. Enticing millennials isn’t about free food and bean bags and ping-pong tables. It’s about giving meaning. There’s a reason we give interns real work from the day they arrive. We value their time, their input and their contribution. Everyone should.

Millennials want help and collaboration

One of the reasons why my son Saunders was so invested in his soccer team was because we invited him into the process. We never told him he had to go; what we did instead was took a collaborative approach. Instead of using carrot-and-stick motivation – do this or else I take something away – we explained why practice would be beneficial, why it would make him better and then make soccer even more fun to play. This not only showed him he had choices, but it gave him ownership over the process. He liked soccer because his progress belonged to him, not us, based on the choices he made himself. There’s a lot of power in this.

This is exactly how companies become popular with millennials, who value collaboration and input. Amazon isn’t such a coveted place to work because they have luxurious conference rooms, game rooms and a fancy tavern on-site. It’s because they give their employees meaning and calibrate individual goals toward learning as much if not more so than performance. Millennials, by and large, don’t want to be told their goal for a quarter is to make the company’s stakeholders 20% more revenue over last quarter. They want to help the company, but they also want to learn and grow in the process.

Millennials want learning goals, not performance goals

You don’t need to guess what millennials want in a company. You just need to ask them. In a 2016 Gallup poll, 87% of millennial responders said they wanted training and development as an integral part of their experience in a company. Think about the most valued companies in the Enso survey; places like Goodwill, Amazon, Save the Children, Google. Each of these has a reputation for ongoing training and development programs in one way or another. This should excite every CEO who reads this news. You’re telling me my young employees want to learn? What an exciting reality.

We need to shift the way we view our companies to court millennials, who are now a vital part of the workforce. FPG may be a training company, but we all need to view ourselves as training companies with millennials on board. How much more valuable would our businesses be if we embraced an entire generation actively looking to be coached and developed from the ground up? Of course this is why training companies are so vital; they equip you with the tools to unleash your millennial population. But in general, we all need to shift our view to see ourselves as trainers and coaches on a daily basis.

I feel so strongly about teaching, growing and collaborating in the workplace that I founded my company around training others to emphasize these things. The more our companies can use this mindset toward our youngest working generation, the more we’ll be unleashed to do great things.

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