In the mid 1950’s, an assistant tailor at the Montgomery Fair department store on Dexter Ave in Montgomery, Alabama exhibited a trait shared by today’s Millennial employees - volunteer work outside her “day job.”
Purpose is a key to engaging Millennials, and they are more likely to volunteer and give than members of previous generations.
On December 1st, 1955, Rosa Parks finished her work and boarded the Cleveland Ave bus to head home. When asked to move from her seat, she refused and was arrested. From there, she went on to challenge the segregation laws and became a key figure in the Civil Rights movement.
Earlier in her career, outside of work, she was a volunteer secretary for the local NAACP chapter, and a member of the Voters League. She created the NAACP Youth Council in Montgomery. In 1954, when the Supreme Court issued the ruling on Brown vs. Board of Education, she helped organize a student march.
The most successful companies today encourage and support their workers to pursue activities and causes they believe in. Millennials want to give back. Most companies now have charitable matching programs, encourage employee volunteering. These benefits are key to recruiting and retention.
According to Forbes, “Millennials today view work as an integrated part of their life, not a separate activity, so they are deeply concerned with ensuring that their company’s values align with their own. As a result, it’s no surprise that the frequency of corporate sponsored volunteer time has increased millennial job satisfaction.”
If not for her volunteer work, Rosa Parks, the seamstress, might not have changed the course of history. She was a great woman in sewing, and while she held different jobs prior to her bus ride, company support for her volunteer efforts were not the same as they would be today.
Unfortunately, due to civil rights economic sanctions after her arrest, she was let go from her position at Montgomery Fair – who didn’t fare well either -purchased by Gayfer’s in 1970. We live in a different world today.
Several states celebrate December 1st as Rosa Parks Day – the day of her arrest – others celebrate her birthday in February.
Her constitution and vigor are reminders of the importance of aligning company values to personal values and empowering employees to serve the world as an integrated part of their work and life.