Millennials or Boomers: Who is More Purpose Driven?

Many of our clients are interested in understanding how purpose helps to engage and inspire employees, especially future employees. The typical hypothesis is that the Millennial workforce will continue to drive changes in the workplace experience and that purpose is a significant driver of the experience. But the data shows a more nuanced position.


There’s a twist to the assumption that Millennials are more interested in purpose than Boomers. According to an Imperative and LinkedIn survey, of the three working-age generational cohorts, Millennials actually have the lowest proportion of members who are purpose oriented (Millennials = 30%, Gen X = 38% and Boomers = 48%). Millennials are now the largest cohort by population but even adjusting for size, purpose-driven Boomers outnumber purpose-driven Millennials by 12M people in the US alone.

Why? The report offers an excellent explanation: “This could potentially be connected to broader developmental psychology theories. Erik Erikson, a German psychoanalyst, identified an eight-stage theory of development and identity. A shift in identity changes between the ages of 18-35 and 35-65. Erickson theorized that young adults (millennials) are focused on building relationships. When they reach middle age, there’s a shift to associate identity with what one is contributing to society.”

There was no data reported for Gen Z, who are about the same size as the Boomer generation right now but are at most 17 years old this year and not yet part of the workforce). However, if Erikson is right, as Millennials and Gen Z cross the 35-year-old threshold (the oldest Millennials are turning 35 this year) the numbers of purpose-driven people will continue to climb steadily every year for the foreseeable future.

That’s great news for our clients who choose to live their purpose and ask us to help discover and communicate it.

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