Britain’s highest-achieving university graduates are increasingly shunning corporate jobs with leading employers in favour of working for social businesses and charities, according to a new report.
Research carried out by PR agency Claremont included interviews with 25 senior executives across a range of sectors from banking to education, about the future of purpose-driven business.
Participants, who included the CEO of US ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s, the vice-chancellor of Northampton University and the managing director of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, all agreed there has been a “mindset shift” among students who want more value in their work.
A person who believes there is purpose in what they are doing typically feels more connected and committed to their work, the research revealed.
Interviewees recognised that employees who felt a strong sense of purpose are more likely to produce higher-quality work.
The report, which is being published this month, (MAY) also highlighted a difference between Corporate Social Responsibility and a purpose-driven business.
While CSR is usually treated as an organisational function, social purpose is the business’s raison d’être”, says Claremont’s Strategy Director Henry Playfoot who conducted the interviews.
However, there were also concerns that the increasing public demand for organisations to become purpose-driven meant that some were adopting inauthentic strategies simply as a form of reputation management.
There was a clear belief among participants that purpose must be “lived” in order to bring about a positive influence.
Purpose-driven organisations including businesses, Government, social enterprises, not-for-profits and charities were all characterised by a long-term commitment, while interviewees said a business can only be truly considered purpose-driven if the people throughout the organisation are meaningfully engaged in the company’s purpose.
Below are some of the thoughts of the executives interviewed by Claremont Communications:
“All business will have to become positive impact business, because people will demand it and customers will buy from companies that include a corporate sense of empathy and focus on how they grow their impact on their global community.”
Jostein Solheim, CEO, Ben & Jerry’s
“We have reached a tipping point: The brightest and most ambitious students now increasingly want to work for a social business or charity, and the most savvy graduate employers are now recruiting for social leadership.”
David Reed, Director, Generation Change
“Now conversations with undergraduates are ‘I want to work in a real business, I want to see the value of that business and I want to be able to feel I am part of delivering that value.’ This is a very, very fundamental mindset shift that plays right alongside your organisational purpose and agenda.”
Andrew Harding, Managing Director, Chartered Institute of Management Accountants
“From our perspective as a university educating the workforce of the future, purpose is becoming increasingly important. Students obviously need technical skills – the ‘how’ – but more and more they’re asking about the ‘why’. Why should I work for a company that doesn’t do something above and beyond just providing a pay cheque?”
Nick Petford Vice-Chancellor, University of Northampton
“The old idea of drawing a line between our work identity and personal identity is fading. Millennials are expressive and open to change. This can be disturbing to the old guard but if you look at any millennial-run organisation, they have a culture where you are not only allowed to be human at work, but it is expected of you every day.”
Aaron Hurst, author and entrepreneur
“The question that I would ask is whether [a company’s purpose] is real. So, is there a thin veneer of authenticity and wanting to do the right thing, or is it properly embedded in the organisation? If you allow a group of marketers or senior executives to go and conjure up a new or revised purpose in a darkened room you’re on a hiding to nothing.”
Dan Joy, UK Country Manager, Ikano Bank
Claremont’s Purpose in Practice report will be published on 14th May. For more information, visit: claremontcomms.com