Why accountability matters: the driving force of younger gens and what this means for workplaces

If the power of technology, online platforms, and social media has taught us one thing, it’s this: we have approached an era where it’s hard to hide. Especially in the public eye where government, higher education, corporations, workplaces – those institutions that are integral to our daily lives – readily make agreements, commitments or promises to act in certain ways, or deliver certain products and services.

Whether these commitments occur behind closed doors or not, the ability for society to scrutinise, vis-a-vis the action and behavior (or lack of) of said institutions is becoming increasingly common. Why? Because we have moved into an era where accountability is now being demanded of; and most notably, the accountability demand is being driven by our younger generations.

Those who listen, know that millennials and Gen Z have strong views about the world. From day-to-day activities, to workplaces, to politics, to all matters EDI – there isn’t a topic where you won’t get a ‘value-added offer’. And while the pandemic may have temporarily halted the activities of these generations, it didn’t stop their desire to continue to hold those to account. And in cases of those who were/are yet to commit, a push to get what matters on the agenda.

Studies (such as the Deloitte 2021 Global Millennial Survey) have indicated, notwithstanding the effects to the pandemic, younger gens have – and are – putting their energy into calling people (including themselves) to account. Racism, sexism, dishonesty, discrimination, unethical behavior – these issues are becoming increasingly non-negotiable and non-tolerable for younger gens (who are, admittedly, also fed up with the state of the world and those who hold the ‘perceived power’ doing less than could be done, to create positive change). 

So, what does this mean for workplaces? If we look to the research, there are several areas that workplaces will need to come to grips with understanding, and then, focus on. And this isn’t just a matter of doing the right thing but will have a significant impact on the ability to recruit and retain millennial and Gen Z talent. 

1. Climate change

There are deep concerns about the state of the planet and the perceived tipping point the world is at. This means that younger gens are gravitating to join workplaces who have sustainability and climate change on the agenda and activity doing something about it.

2. Societal impact

This stems beyond promises made; it’s about corporate responsibility and the impact being made in the world. And like climate change, younger gens want to see business motivation not focused solely on their own agenda and profits, but the greater good. 

3. Mental health

For workplaces, there is still much improvement to be made on removing the stigma around mental health. A reported 40 per cent of millennials and Gen Z felt that workplaces didn’t offer enough support during the pandemic – which is not a great position to be in. Action speaks louder than words, and one of the key concerns was that while a lot of talk was happening, little was done by way of action.

4. Stress

Linked with mental health, there’s growing anxiety and uncertainty around personal finances. This also extends to supporting family, and job/career prospects. For workplaces, this means a new approach to supporting younger gens through their financial concerns is needed. Alternative ways to alleviating financial burdens based on individual needs, is worth considering.   

5. Inequality and racism

It’s reported that two-thirds of younger gens are concerned about the unequal distribution of income in the word. And further, this inequality also extends to racism, where an alarming percent see systemic racism as widespread across society. For workplaces, this demands more attention, including ways of reducing barriers and removing bias.

The demand for accountability isn’t going away. If anything, it will only continue to grow in power. Those workplaces who are willing to ‘walk the talk’, and act in ways that are integral and ethical, will prosper through the performance, support, and commitment of younger gens.