Many younger millennials get a hard time about their sensitivities on political and employment issues, including their tendency to job hop. A new study published in the journal Sustainability indeed finds that young workers often leave a job because of a disconnect between their own beliefs and the workplace culture.
“Fewer people of this generation are just looking for a paycheck,” said Jung Ha-Brookshire, Ph.D., an associate professor of textile and apparel management and associate dean of research and graduate studies in the University of Missouri (MU) College of Human Environmental Sciences.
“They have been raised with a sense of pro-social, pro-environment values, and they are looking to be engaged. If they find that a company doesn’t honor these values and contributions, many either will try to change the culture or find employment elsewhere.”
For the study, the researchers interviewed employees working in textile and apparel industries involved in corporate supply chains. They found that young workers expressed the most frustration when their employers publicly voiced a commitment to environmental sustainability but did not follow through substantively in areas such as:
- materials selection, including the use of recycled materials;
- proper management of pollutants, including chemicals and dyes;
- working conditions in textile factories;
- product packaging, distribution, and marketing to consumers.
“We were interested in workers’ values regarding sustainability and corporate sustainability practices and whether a gap existed,” said Rachel LoMonaco-Benzing, a doctoral student in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences. “Not only did we find a gap, but we also found that workers were much more likely to leave a job if they felt their values were not reflected in the workplace.”
To ensure a good fit with a potential employer, the researchers suggest that job seekers speak with current and former employees at various levels of the organization, asking questions about areas that are particularly important to them, such as sustainability, work-life balance policies, or community partnerships.
On the employer’s side, the researchers encourage businesses to understand that the new generation of workers have high ethical and social expectations. Being transparent with job candidates about corporate culture can help eliminate future frustration, they said.
Furthermore, allowing employees to have a say in cultural decisions through membership on committees and outreach efforts can help increase morale.
“I think this is another sign to the industry that business as usual is not going to work if you want to attract and retain these valuable workers,” Ha-Brookshire said.