2016 Trends #1: The Rise of the Millennial Mindset

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To help prepare compliance professionals for the year ahead, we’ve talked with industry experts, our colleagues at NAVEX Global, and ethics and compliance professionals from our more than 12,500 client organizations to gather insights on the top issues and trends that will impact compliance programs in 2016. We’ll share each of the trends here over the next few weeks.


Millennials—those born between 1975 and 1995—currently make up almost half of the workforce, and it is estimated that they will comprise fully 75% by 2025.

While it may be several years before they hold the reins of power in organizations, their influence is already being felt. In part, this is because many older employees have adopted a “millennial state of mind”—and this mindset is already shifting employee attitudes about workplace issues. (To see how “millennial” your mindset is, visit the Pew Research Center online and take their “How Millennial Are You?” quiz.)

Some of the changes that can be traced to the millennial mindset include:

  • Increasing skepticism that business will do the right thing when faced with a tough decision
  • Far more emphasis on the importance of an organization’s social responsibility and environmental impact, and
  • Changed expectations about how an organization should train and how we learn and acquire information

It’s important to keep in mind that these shifts in attitude do not just apply to those who are chronologically millennials, but rather reflect a broader change as our workplaces and cultures change and adapt to a new generation of employees.

Key Steps for Organizations to Take

  1. Plan for change. Consider how your workplace will shift in the next 5-10 years and start innovating now. Stay on top of how employees prefer to acquire knowledge, and try to incorporate those methods into your E&C program. This may necessitate significant changes in the structure and presentation of your code, including moving to an on-line code that includes interactive features and links to policies, training material and more.
  2. Assess learning styles for your organization. Now is the time to review the various ways your organization delivers ethics and compliance education. Develop training in formats that best meet the learning styles of your employees. This may mean adapting video content, delivering information via mobile devices or harnessing the power of social and collaborative learning. It may even mean exploring the feasibility of integrating gaming elements into your online training. Hour-long sessions will likely be replaced by shorter quick-hitting modules.
  3. Don’t jump to conclusions. It is important that we sort through some of the more alarming statistics that may not be what they seem. For example, several early studies (from 2008 to 2010) suggested that millennials are more likely to cheat, cross ethical lines and believe that “the ends justify the means.” (For example see ERC Report, Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers: Who’s Working at Your Company and What Do They Think About Ethics?) But other more recent studies have reasonably argued that such beliefs change over time as young people leave the academic environment, move into more structured and rule-based environments and gain experience and maturity.
  4. Expect to be surprised. Not only should we not jump to conclusions about millennials, we should expect to be surprised. According to a recent study by Bentley University, millennials are becoming more discerning about social media use in the workplace and may not be finished reshaping our attitudes and expectations:

“Despite the impression that Millennials are so totally obsessed with using social media, even in the workplace, a study conducted by Bentley University found that more than half of [Millennial] workers prefer face-to-face interactions with their office colleagues over other (i.e., digitally driven) modes of work communications. Further, 66% of Millennial workers surveyed recommended that employers put greater limits on social media usage in the workplace.”


Want to talk with an expert about your specific challenges for the coming year? Schedule a consultation with our ethics and compliance expertswe'd love to see how we might help support you and your organization.

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