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New ‘Thinker’ Sets Mind to Enticing Millennials

5 July 2017 at 9:01 am
Wendy Williams
Businesses need to be clear about what their higher purpose is, according to the latest “thinker” in the Adelaide Thinkers in Residence program who has identified a social innovation model to entice millennials.

Wendy Williams | 5 July 2017 at 9:01 am


New ‘Thinker’ Sets Mind to Enticing Millennials
5 July 2017 at 9:01 am

Businesses need to be clear about what their higher purpose is, according to the latest “thinker” in the Adelaide Thinkers in Residence program who has identified a social innovation model to entice millennials.

Suzi Sosa, the co-founder and CEO of Verb, a global social enterprise based in Adelaide’s sister city, Austin, Texas, is currently in South Australia as part of the Don Dunstan Foundation series of residencies focusing on growing jobs in the social economy.

In the coming week the social entrepreneur aims to encourage the state to think creatively to grow purpose-based jobs that appeal to millennials.

She told Pro Bono News that millennials were having a major impact, as they demanded greater social responsibility from prospective employers.

“One piece of data that we talk about a lot is that millennials now comprise 38 per cent of the workforce, they are actually the largest age group in the workforce. They are bigger than the baby boomers or than any other generation and within the next decade they will comprise 75 per cent of the workforce,” Sosa said.

“Another interesting data point is that when millennials are asked what is the purpose of business, the number one most popular response is to improve society.

“And so that point of view is really putting a lot of pressure on companies, to behave differently.”

According to Sosa data has shown around 70 per cent of millennials said they would like to work for a company where they can feel a sense of purpose or meaning in their daily work.

She said this becomes a challenge for corporations in how to frame the basic business in the context of purpose of meaning.

It was this trend that lead Sosa, who was awarded the Ernst & Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2014, to launch Verb, the first global learning and development platform that combines online workplace leadership skill development with social impact.

“Companies were coming to us and saying we’re worried about losing our millennials,” she said.

“So the platform that we created is an online leadership training platform but it is all focused on social impact.

“And many people have asked me: ‘Why does it have to have social impact, why can’t it just be a traditional leadership training platform?’ And it is because millennials have such a strong desire for purpose and meaning and they don’t want to study business skills just to have business skills, they want to study business skills and leadership skills because they want to do good in the world and they want to make change.

“So we have adapted different types of leadership skills. We have things like mindfulness, social and emotional intelligence, giving and receiving feedback, working across cultures –  these are things we consider more 21st century leadership skills. And in addition to the online training, what is innovative about our platform is that the millennials can choose to be paired with a not-for-profit organisation to actually work on a project where they build those skills in the real world.”

Sosa said there were a number of things that businesses could do to entice millennials.

“I think that first of all companies need to be very clear about what their higher purpose is,” she said.

“Every company can articulate a higher purpose and I think that is the stopping point. So to be about something that is more than just making money.

“Then I think the second piece is to look at community engagement, not just as a moral obligation, or as business people would put it as a cost centre, a sort of necessary evil that you do as a company, but instead to look at community engagement as something that can create real value for the business.

“If they can start thinking about community engagement and social impact as a way to attract new talent, to retain talent, to find innovation and business insights, to build their brand, to engage customers, to engage regulators who might be affecting their industry, and to look at social impact and community engagement more strategically and think about the value it can bring to the business, in terms of reducing risk, of reducing cost, attracting new talent, then that’s going to help businesses put more resources to it and have better programs.”

Sosa said that in the future all businesses would be socially minded.

“I know it is hard for people to imagine today, because the reign of traditional capitalism has lasted so long, but I am sure that if you look far enough ahead, if you took a 100 year view, you would see in the future that the previous model of capitalism will be completely replace by a new one where every business is expected to be a positive contributor to community and to the environment and it is not just something for a select few,” Sosa said.

“It is happening overtime and as the leadership in these big companies retires and new young leadership comes in, in key roles like the chief marketing officer and the chief operating officer and the head of HR, those new leaders really know that this is not a nice to have, this is a need to have. And if they want to retain their top talent they have to think about it differently.”

With the social economy the fastest growing section of the South Australian economy, Sosa said it held the key to making the state more appealing to millennials.

“Young entrepreneurs want an attractive place to live, strong leadership, mentors, low-cost living options and access to capital,” Sosa said.

“These are the drivers for a vibrant culture which can attract young innovators to remain in a location or even relocate there.”

Don Dunstan Foundation executive director David Pearson said it was an exciting opportunity to welcome Sosa to South Australia as part of the 18-month program to help build the social economy in Adelaide.

“The main objective of Social Capital Residencies is to grow jobs in the social economy by doing good better. It’s great to have people like Suzi here to help us do that,” Pearson said.

Sosa’s visit also coincides with Entrepreneurs Week in South Australia (3 to 7 July).

She said one of the observations she had made already was that Adelaide had “a very strong entrepreneurial ecosystem” that is “strong and growing”.

“What I think is interesting is to ask, how could the social impact and the social entrepreneurial ecosystem tap into what’s already vibrant in the entrepreneurial community,” she said.

“Instead of creating a separate ecosystem alongside, how might we infuse social impact into the existing entrepreneurial ecosystem to get further faster versus trying to raise new money and bring in new partners and build something new.”

Her arrival follows the recent visit by internationally renowned social innovator Allyson Hewitt, from the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto.

Hewitt is the primary “thinker” for the Social Capital Residencies and will return to Adelaide in September.

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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