What it was:
A report on trends in attitudes to ethics in business, reviewed as part of my PR CPD.
What I learned:
Ageing populations and the new generation entering the workplace are creating opportunities and challenges for employers in embedding ethics.
Understanding different characteristics of these generations is fundamental to building a culture founded on ethical values.
Four generations can be (loosely) identified:
- Traditionalists (born between 1922 and 1945)
- Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964)
- Generation X (born between 1965 and 1982)
- Generation Y or Millennials (born between 1983 and 2004).
Millennials account for 25% of the workforce in the US and it is predicted that by 2020, they will form 50% of the global workforce
Boomers and Traditionalists seem to be less prepared than other age groups, as they developed professionally before such a function became commonplace. However, the underlying attitudes of these two generations seem to be less accepting of unethical behaviour.
Millennials want worthwhile work – a majority want to work for a company that makes a positive impact, half prefer purposeful work to a high salary, and 53% would work harder if they felt they were making a difference to others
Organisations should seek to leverage the different generations’ strengths, to create a working environment that values differences and bridges potential generational gaps
A strong ethics culture can motivate employees to do the right thing and increase employee engagement
Use of ethics ambassadors across the divide: Potentially, Millennials can be effective ethics ambassadors as they are natural networkers and familiar with new technologies, but at the same time older employees may have a more established reputation for integrity.
Use of metrics and bench-marking to segment the workforce can be useful to understand the employee’s expectations from their job at different stages of their career.
What I will aim to do differently as a result:
Try to reflect likely communication styles of different generations in internal communications activities.
Remember different motivations of staff of different generations.
Consider use of “generational ambassadors” in internal campaigns.
Try to ensure that senior staff are aware of these differences when they communicate (junior staff likely to be a different generation from them!)
Be careful about following this analysis too slavishly – cannot discriminate against any one generation (Equalities Act) e.g. by assuming one generation is susceptible to acting unethically.
Also a good idea to take such inter-generational analyses with a pinch of salt!