It’s about meaning, not money.


To succeed in 2019, you need to change six beliefs about young talent. This is according to the Gallup organization in its forthcoming book, It’s the Manager.

In this piece, the first of six, we’ll explore the first of these beliefs and identify some actionable insights to help you infuse it into your culture. In the following pieces, we’ll do the same with each of the other five beliefs.

Belief #1: Millennials and Generation–Z don’t work for a paycheck, they want a purpose.

It is not only millennials and Generation Z who want purpose. After over 25 years of working with purpose in businesses worldwide, I believe that all people crave meaning in their work. The difference with millennials and Generation–Z is that whereas older generations have been willing to settle for work that does not have a higher meaning if they couldn’t find work that does, young talent today is not willing to settle.

This brings us to a second dimension of what young talent wants. They want more than purpose. They want their companies’ purpose to be aligned with their own values. If sustainability is a value of theirs, they want to work for companies that prioritize sustainability. If they value education, they might aim to work for companies whose purpose is to educate. Young people will move from employer to employer until they find a place to work that is not only purpose-driven, and whose purpose also aligns with their own values. Many employers will interpret this movement by young people as being fickle and lacking in tenacity or loyalty. They will assume these young people are leaving because they want bigger paychecks or more appealing working conditions. This is mostly untrue. They are simply leaving because of the lack of a values-fit.

A third aspect of what millennials and Generation Z expect from their companies’ purpose is that it is more than a generic description of what their industry does. They want it to be big and world-changing, and also somewhat unique to that particular company. They want a purpose to describe more than the tangible commodity the company supplies. They want it also to express the intangible contribution to humankind that the company makes. American Express’s “We work hard every day to make American Express the world’s most respected service brand,” doesn’t cut it. JetBlue’s “To inspire humanity—both in the air and on the ground,” does; as does Tesla’s “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”

So here are some things to focus on:

  1. When recruiting, target people whose values are likely to resonate with your company purpose.
  2. Make sure your purpose is authentic to who you are as a company, that it expresses your true beliefs and values, and that it manifests throughout your culture.
  3. Align your performance management and leadership development to your purpose so that your purpose is not just a document, but a driver of your company’s strategy and behavior. It is in this that you can achieve true distinction from others who compete in your field.

Gallup concludes:

“In the past, baby boomers’ and other generations’ mission and purpose were their families and communities. For millennials and Generation Z, compensation is important and must be fair, but it’s no longer their primary motivation. The emphasis for these generations has switched from paycheck to purpose—and so should your culture.”