@2 months ago with 6 notes
The Brookings Institute has a new paper by Morley Winograd and Dr. Michael Hais called “How Millennials Could Upend Wall Street and Corporate America.” And while I agree with the Title, I disagree with the conclusions.
The basic theme is that Millennials are more progressive, less concerned with money, and want corporations to be focused less on profits and more on meaning. They write:
“This desire on the part of Millennials for their daily work to reflect and be a part of their societal concerns will make it impossible for corporate chieftains to motivate Millennial employees simply by extolling profits…”
And in perhaps the funniest factoid in the paper, they find that 71% of Millennials told researchers they would “rather go to the dentist than listen to what banks are saying.”
But the conclusions of the paper are disappointing—though perhaps not surprising, given that JP Morgan is listed as a $1 million and over donor in Brookings’ 2013 Annual Report, and Bank of America is listed as $500,000-$999,999 donor in the same report. The recommendations are essentially that corporations need to simply have better PR, give more to charity, and occasionally do something other than maximize shareholder profits.
The over-arching principle of this paper is that Millennials can change corporations from within. The researchers state dramatically that:
“The cultural clash between Millennials’ values and beliefs and the priorities of bankers and financiers could signal the death knell for not just Milton Friedman’s position that maximizing shareholder value should be management’s only priority, but for an entire way of life inside the world of high finance. “
As someone who entered Wall Street as a young person, and then was transformed, I must say that I am skeptical of the idea that Millennials working within the existing system could produce its “death knell.” I wrote in detail for N+1’s Occupy Gazette about my experience on, and leaving, Wall Street:
“Once hired, the cultural indoctrination begins in earnest…Most of the message revolves around how hard everyone works, and how hard you are expected to work in turn. Wall Street views its own work ethic as legendary…This dueling masochism/machismo brings with it a tremendous superiority complex. People on Wall Street truly believe they work harder than anyone else. When confronted with the stark reality of, for example, a single mom working two jobs, the response is usually some variant of, ‘Well, if they’d only worked as hard as I did in school …’”
This sort of indoctrination is not something that I, as someone born on the Gen X/Millennial cusp, was able to fight on my own.
The Brookings paper goes on to recommend that to “retain the loyalty of Millennial employees,” employers should “expand their goals beyond simply growing profits to include additional ones focused on the full range of their stakeholders, such as serving communities and satisfying customers.”
What is comical about this statement is that corporations already claim—freely, readily—to Congress that they do, indeed, serve communities and they absolutely satisfy customers. Will they simply shift their lobbying to their own Millennial employees?