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Harvard Business Review: 9 Out Of 10 People Are Willing To Earn Less In Order To Do More Meaningful Work

How far are you willing to go to make a difference? 

Turns out, most of us would go pretty far to do our part. Whilst some commit their entire lives to activism and becoming an agent of change, others are more mindful about everyday decisions and work towards making a difference through small but necessary steps. Regardless of the method, all of us want to feel like our efforts are making a difference. This isn’t just a localized mentality, but a global pattern. Which has triggered the rise of the social impact industry.

People Are Looking For Meaningful Jobs 

Fresh graduates and those newly entering the workforce have big dreams and ideal careers they envision for themselves. They are driven and self-motivated. However, not everyone lands on their dream job on the first try. In fact, many first time employees go through multiple job hops before they find the right one. Unfortunately, there are also many who fall by the wayside and settle for jobs that limit them to mundane and mediocre tasks. 

Source: Unsplash

A survey by Service Now in America found that employees were spending more than 40% of their time doing routine tasks that do not have a direct impact on their core job goals. As a matter of fact, 45% of employees would rather clean their bathroom than calculate HR benefits. 37% would rather be stuck in a traffic jam than fix a broken printer. 36% would rather stand in line than troubleshoot IT issues[1].

Source: Forbes

Over time employees have expressed that these tasks ultimately make them feel like they are wasting their time, as they are underutilised, more stressed and nowhere near living up to their full potential[1], let alone making a difference. Thus they look elsewhere, to channel this potential. Essentially, employees are looking for jobs that are fulfilling and meaningful. 

Multiple studies have supported these patterns in workplace mentality.

Harvard Business Review found that nine out of ten people were willing to earn less money in order to do more meaningful work[2]

Another study revealed that 44% of millennials and 49% of Gen Zs said they have made choices over the type of work they are prepared to do and the organisations for which they are willing to work based on their personal ethics[3]. The Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2018, found that “citizenship and social impact” were rated critical or important by 77% of the study’s respondents[4]

With purpose comes passion. Source: Unsplash

The impact industry provides the people with purpose and in return, many were willing to work more hours and take fewer days of paid leave per year, working towards things that they find meaningful. This sense of purpose also reduces the likelihood of employees quitting their job[2]. Eventually, by having more people committed to the work in the long run, logically, more change would be brought about. 

So… What Is The Impact Industry? 

More people today have the freedom, time, wealth, health, exposure, social mobility, and confidence to address social problems in bold new ways. – David Bornstein

The impact industry while more commonly understood as just social impact is much larger than that. At Wiki Impact, it is defined as individuals, private and government entities that are driven and motivated to create positive social and environmental impact that is measurable and good for society. 

Participants in the impact industry prioritise work that consciously, systemically and sustainably serves or attempts to solve a local or global community need[5]. It includes traditional non-governmental organisations (NGOs), government agencies, CSR foundations, philanthropists, social enterprises, impact-driven businesses, grant makers, funding providers, researchers and individuals involved in and motivated to drive sustainable social and environmental change. 

Source: American Express

Globally, the Millennials and Gen Zs are pushing forward and shaping the impact industry. The UK alone recorded a total of 100,000 social enterprises, employing two million people and contributing a whopping £60bn to the economy[6]. In America, there are over 195,000 organisations that have been filed as public charities in 2004. This includes 9.4 million paid workers and another 4.7 million volunteers. Canada has over 160, 000 non-profit organisations, employing over two million people, and generating over $75 billion in annual revenue[7]. A majority of these companies tend to the social inequalities of their own nation rather than channel their efforts abroad. Rightly so, as each nation have their own needs and citizens have risen to the challenge to meet these needs[7]

Malaysia’s Impact Industry

The global trend of purpose-driven businesses and workforce are showing similar signs in Malaysia. According to the Malaysian Employee Federation (MEF), they have noted a similar trend among fresh graduates and millennials (the major demographic in the workforce), whereby they are looking for socially responsible companies for employment[8]

These youths have a greater sense of keenness to make a difference and to make an impact. We see an increasing number of students joining social enterprises where they can build careers while using their skills to help society. Datuk Dr Parmjit Singh, President of the Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities (Mapcu)

Source: Vulcan Post

As of 2017, the British Council stated that there are approximately 20,000 social enterprises in Malaysia. Similar to the rest of the world, public data on the total number of social impact businesses and the industry as a whole is hard to come by. Most of these are startups that present a significant opportunity to generate employment whilst simultaneously supporting marginalised communities[6]

Social-impact organisations in Malaysia have varied income streams such as donations(32%), foundation grants(26%) and government grants(25%)[6]. However, many are forced to use personal resources when setting up. These funds are distributed between operational costs and purchasing equipment needed for the business. During these times, the previously mentioned act of passion from volunteers is considered priceless in terms of sustaining the business[6]. The social-impact space is not known to be high-income generating, but this has yet to discourage young Malaysians from advocating for a better tomorrow. 

In order to encourage the impact industry, the Malaysian government has integrated volunteerism and public engagement into the university syllabus and eased donations through tax breaks for investors. However, there are still many steps that need to be taken into account in order for this industry to succeed, including accumulating data on what’s available and what’s needed. The potential to harness the skills, motivation, vision and purposeful pursuit of this generation is potent and Malaysia’s impact industry has yet to see its boom. Our responsibility is to enable and ease the current generation to chart a path that will build the nation’s economy and people.

Empowering youths to take part in public life has been vital for the government in our efforts to establish a more inclusive human rights agenda. They have successfully demonstrated their abilities to become great leaders of the future. – Waytha Moorthy Ponnusamy, Former Minister in the Prime Ministers Department

Explore Our Sources:

  1. S. Biswas. (2019). Study: Employees Want Meaningful Work Over Money. HR Technologist. Link.
  2. S. Achor, A. Reece, G. R. Kellerman, A. Robichaux. (2018). 9 Out of 10 People Are Willing to Earn Less Money to Do More-Meaningful Work. Harvard Business Review. Link. 
  3. Deloitte. (2021). The Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey. Link. 
  4. Deloitte. (2018). The Rise of the Social Enterprise. Link.
  5. CauseLabs. (2018). What are Social Impact Companies and Why Do They Matter? Link.
  6. J. Lee. (2019). Enabling social entrepreneurship. The Star. Link.
  7. M. Mendell. (2007). Social Enterprise: A North American Perspective. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Link. 
  8. Chin, C and Menon, S. (2020). Malaysian youths want careers that make a difference. The Star. Link.

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