The resilient generation: Today’s youth view COVID period as opportunity to reset, take action

by | Aug 11, 2020 | Covid-19, Public Relations

Despite unprecedented health and economic disruption caused by the COVID crisis, millennials and Gen Zers nevertheless show resolve and embrace a vision to build a better future, according to new research fromfinancial consulting firm Deloitte.

The 2020 Deloitte Global Millennial Survey, now in its ninth year, reveals that both generations remain resilient in the face of adversity and are determined to drive positive change in their communities and around the world.

This two-part study consists of a “primary” survey of millennials and Gen Zers across 43 countries between November 2019 and early January 2020, and a “pulse” survey taken in over 13 countries between April and May of 2020. Many questions from the first study were repeated to gauge the effect of the pandemic on opinions.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has radically shifted our way of life—how we work, socialize, shop, and more—and young generations were especially impacted,” said Michele Parmelee, Deloitte Global Chief People and Purpose Officer, in a news release. “However, despite uncertain and discouraging conditions, millennials and Gen Zs express impressive resiliency and a resolve to improve the world. As we rebuild our economies and society, young people will be critical in shaping the world that emerges.”

The resilient generation: Today’s youth view COVID period as opportunity to reset, take action

The report highlights how the consequences of the pandemic have drastically affected the careers of young workers. At the time of polling, almost 30 percent of Gen Zers and nearly a quarter of younger millennials (25-30 years old) said they had either lost their jobs or been placed on temporary, unpaid leave. Only a third of millennials and 38 percent of Gen Zers taking the pulse survey said their employment and income status had been unaffected.

The picture that emerges from this year’s survey is complicated but hopeful: Even in the midst of crisis, millennials and Gen Zers are recommitting to improving society, pushing for a world in which businesses and governments mirror their own commitments.

Stress and mental wellness—often amplified by work and financial concerns—remain critical issues

Prior to the pandemic, 52 percent of Gen Zers and 50 percent of millennials in the 13 countries that were surveyed twice said they were stressed all or most of the time. Respondents cited family welfare, long-term finances, and job prospects as primary sources of stress. Interestingly, stress levels fell eight points for both generations in the second survey, possibly indicating that the slowdown of life in lockdown may have reduced stress levels. This is backed by a recent Deloitte UK study of over 2,000 UK workers, which found that 48 percent of employed and self-employed Londoners say the lockdown has had a positive or very positive impact on their wellbeing.

The resilient generation: Today’s youth view COVID period as opportunity to reset, take action

Despite the slight declines seen in the pulse survey, stress and mental wellness remain critical issues for young generations and these issues are manifested in work settings. Approximately one-third of millennials and Gen Zers took time off work due to stress before the pandemic, though around half told their employers it was for a different reason. Encouragingly, flexible working arrangements—which were widely implemented as a result of the pandemic—may present one solution. Sixty-nine percent of millennials and 64 percent of Gen Zers agreed having the option to work from home in the future would relieve stress.

Financial concerns are a particularly acute stressor for millennials, many of whom began their careers in the wake of the Great Recession and now face another downturn. In the primary survey, more millennials (50 percent) believed their financial situations will worsen or stagnate in the next year than improve (42 percent). When analyzing results from only the 13 countries included in the pulse survey, 61 percent of millennial respondents conveyed the same lack of optimism during the pandemic, a seven percentage-point jump from the primary survey. Still, there is some short-term optimism as more than half of millennials in the pulse survey, and nearly half of Gen Zers, say they have savings of roughly three months of income, which may help them as the financial ramifications of the pandemic come to bear.

Determination to improve the world—and expecting others to follow suit

Younger generations take the issue of social purpose as a personal calling. In the pulse survey, respondents indicated they were taking “socially conscious” actions to benefit the planet and society. The COVID-19 crisis may have reinforced these inclinations, as nearly three-fourths said the pandemic has made them more sympathetic to the needs of others, and that they will take action to positively impact their communities.

Millennials and Gen Zers’ focus on doing good is reflected in their purchasing habits as well. About 60 percent said they plan to buy more products and services from large businesses that have taken care of their workforces and positively impacted society during the pandemic. Around three-quarters will make an extra effort to buy products and services from smaller, local businesses.

The resilient generation: Today’s youth view COVID period as opportunity to reset, take action

Once again, climate change emerged as a critical issue for millennials and Gen Zers both before and during the COVID-19 crisis. Prior to the pandemic, half of respondents said they believe it too late to repair the damage caused by climate change and only 40 percent expressed optimism that future efforts to protect the environment will succeed. However, four months later in the 13 pulse survey countries, the percentage of millennials believing we’ve reached the point of no return dropped by eight points, perhaps suggesting that the environmental impact of reduced activity during the pandemic has given hope that there’s still time to act.

A vast majority (80 percent) also think governments and businesses need to make greater efforts to protect the environment, yet they are concerned that the economic impact of the pandemic might make this less of a priority.

The resilient generation: Today’s youth view COVID period as opportunity to reset, take action

View of business overall continues to decline despite increase in employer loyalty

The view of business in general around the world continues to wane. In the primary survey, 51 percent of millennials said business is a force for good, down from 76 percent three years ago and 55 percent in 2019. In the pulse survey, these numbers continued to decline to 41 percent for millennials and 43 percent for Gen Zers (Gen Zers reported 52 percent favorability in the primary survey).

However—whether employers are finally starting to better meet workers’ needs, or millennials were feeling the need to find stability even before the pandemic—for the first time since asking the question four years ago, more millennials in the primary survey said they want to stay with their employers for five or more years than leave within two years. Those who would leave in two years or less dropped from 49 percent to 31 percent, while those who’d prefer to stay long-term jumped from 28 percent to 35 percent. Gen Zers remain more interested in moving, but only half said they’d like to change jobs within two years, down from 61 percent last year.

The resilient generation: Today’s youth view COVID period as opportunity to reset, take action

Respondents were also largely receptive to how employers were navigating the COVID-19 crisis—two-thirds said they were pleased with the speed and manner by which employers acted. Around 60 percent believe these actions have made them want to stay with their employers for the long term.

“These results suggest companies must do more to demonstrate how they are positively impacting employees and society. Job loyalty rises as businesses address employee needs, from diversity and inclusion to sustainability to reskilling,” added Parmelee. “For businesses, the message is clear—young people believe in companies with a purpose-driven strategy. These are the companies that will lead in the post-pandemic future.”

Download the full report here.

The 2020 report is based on two sets of surveys. The first began prior to the COVID-19 outbreak using an online, self-complete-style interview; fieldwork was completed between 21 November 2019 and 8 January 2020. A second survey was conducted in similar fashion between 28 April 2020 and 17 May 2020, in the midst of the worldwide pandemic.

The data and opinions in this press release include the collective insights of both generations and, in some cases, are independent of each other and have been cited accordingly. The subsequent survey questioned 5,501 millennials and 3,601 Gen Zs in 13 large markets that were affected by the pandemic to different degrees. No respondents in the former survey were queried in the latter.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter