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Millennials Holding Fast To Core Values In A Constantly Changing World

Deloitte survey of over 18,000 millennials and Gen Z respondents across 43 countries reveals a values-driven cohort, managing high levels of anxiety and stress with an increasingly low opinion of traditional institutions.

Shaped by the trying circumstances that have affected them from the beginning, millennials (aged 26-37) and Gen Zs (aged 18-25) are remaining steadfast, and refusing to compromise their values, according to The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2020, released today.

The global survey gathered responses from more than 18,000 millennial and Gen Z people from 43 countries. In New Zealand, only millennials were surveyed and there were over 300 respondents. The survey found that this cohort’s commitment to positive change remains strong, despite high levels of stress and low levels of trust in traditional institutions and the media.

Deloitte New Zealand Human Capital partner, Lauren Foster, says that the lasting impact of the Global Financial Crisis, the looming threat of climate change and rising inequities have shaped a unique generation that now faces the economic fallout of a global pandemic.

“Millennials continue to hold clear values, measure companies by them, and use them to guide personal behaviour, even in the face of challenges,” says Ms Foster.

“We can see environmental concerns and climate change shaping the behaviour of this cohort really clearly,” says Ms Foster. “We found that a significant portion (40%) of millennials reported ending a relationship with a business because of the effect their products or services have on the environment. I’d encourage local business leaders to take notice and consider how this trend will shape workforce behaviour in the years to come.”

The values that millennials hold so firmly may be contributing to their high stress levels.

“Millennials report high levels of stress, with 48% of the New Zealand respondents saying they feel anxious or stressed all or most of the time,” says Ms Foster. “When we asked about the reasons for concern, respondents rated climate change and the environment, safety and income inequality as the top three issues.”

As the fieldwork for the 2020 Millennial Survey began in late November 2019 and concluded a week into the New Year, the initial results were not affected by COVID-19. Recognising the impact of the pandemic, the Deloitte research team quickly developed and administered a smaller ‘pulse’ survey to approximately half as many people as the initial survey, across 13 countries.

It is worth noting that the ‘pulse’ survey saw anxiety levels fall eight points for both generations, indicating a potential silver lining to the disruption caused by the pandemic.

“Though the pulse survey didn’t include New Zealand, the findings relating to stress are aligned with what I’ve seen in workplaces here in New Zealand,” says Ms Foster. “Millennials in particular have had to learn how to live with anxiety, and so, when faced with a global pandemic they are equipped with the skills and strategies they need to manage themselves through uncertainty.”

There is evidence that millennials are taking proactive steps to manage this stress and anxiety, but there are still barriers to overcome.

“With 35% of New Zealand millennials taking time off work in the past 12 months due to anxiety or stress, but only 28% telling their employers that their absence was due to anxiety or stress (compared to 44% globally), it seems that millennials here feel that mental health self-care carries a stigma,” says Ms Foster.

“When we asked if stress was a legitimate reason to take time off work, there was a significant difference between the global and local populations,” says Ms Foster. “62% of New Zealand millennials agreed that anxiety or stress is a valid reason to take time off work, compared with 50% globally. That tells me that our local population of millennials are really clear on what they need to manage themselves, but there remains work to be done by leaders to ensure this emerging, and important generation is confident that they can seek and receive the support they need to be successful in a professional setting.”

Despite this disconnect, there have been improvements in millennials’ relationships with their employers.

“It’s heartening to see more millennials’ intending to stay with employers for longer periods of time,” says Ms Foster. “In the 2019 survey, 55% of respondents said that they expected to leave their current employer within two years. This year, that figure dropped to 33%, suggesting that the needs of this cohort are now being met more often by their employers.”

Pushing that question out longer-term, the percentage of millennials who planned to stay with their current employer beyond five years grew from 17% in 2019 to 30% in 2020.

Stepping back and looking broadly at levels of trust in society, local millennials stand out as having noticeably lower levels of confidence than those of their global counterparts. This was true across all groups and people mentioned in the research, including:

  • non-governmental organisations, (16% locally v. 23% globally)
  • traditional media, (14% locally v. 20% globally)
  • business leaders (9% locally v. 16% globally)
  • social media (10% locally v. 19 globally)
  • religious leaders (9% locally v, 18% globally), and
  • political leaders (10% locally v. 13% globally)

“Seeing single digit levels of trust will likely be a wake-up call for some,” says Ms Foster. “It’s clear from this survey that millennials’ and Gen Z’s commitment to change runs deep. It is also clear that the values held by this cohort are leading to frustration with traditional systems and institutions.”

“COVID-19 has shown millennials how fast and focussed organisations can be,” says Ms Foster. “Under lockdown they saw wildlife return to the communities they live in, and businesses flex and adapt to remote working almost overnight. The question now is, can these same institutions make the modifications needed to lock in these positive changes and live up to the values millennials hold so firmly?”

About the survey

The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2020 is based on two sets of surveys. The first began prior to the COVID-19 outbreak using an online, self-complete-style interview; fieldwork was completed between November 21, 2019, and January 8, 2020. A second survey was conducted in similar fashion between April 28, 2020, and May 17, 2020, in the midst of the worldwide pandemic.

The initial survey solicited the views of 13,715 millennials across 43 countries, including 302 New Zealand respondents, and 4,711 Generation Z respondents from 20 countries. The subsequent survey questioned 5,501 millennials and 3,601 Gen Z’s in 13 large markets that were affected by the pandemic to different degrees, and excluded New Zealand. No respondents in the former survey were queried in the latter.

Millennials included in the study were born between January 1983 and December 1994. Generation Z respondents were born between January 1995 and December 2003.

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