Working With Millennials: The Importance of Mission, Purpose and Values


By Mark J. Carter

When it comes to cross-generational teams it’s important to “be on the same page” with your long term goals if you want both short and long term results. This presents both challenges and opportunities when your teams include millennials.

That’s part of the conversation I had with Nick Sarillo at the Workspring event “Working With and Mentoring Millennials: Cross-Generational Leadership.” While we were discussing business and teams a few (very) common themes kept coming up in the conversation with the audience: Mission, Vision and Purpose. While “mission statements” have been hanging on office and break room walls for decades, what do they mean today? What does “purpose” really mean and more importantly how can understanding both help you manage and work with cross-generational teams?

There’s a nuance that’s had a big impact for Nick and the people that work at his company (of which 70% are below the age of 25); it has created empowerment and a feeling of ownership with his teams.  Think of the typical mission statement, it starts with “To Be….”  Mission statements are important – they can guide the vision and action of your teams and your company.

But with purpose – what’s different are the words we use and the ownership we take around that.  Take your mission statement and make it present tense.

“We DO this____ We ARE this____ We HAVE this____”   instead of

“We will want to do this____ We are going to be this____ We are going to have this____”

Feel the difference, try it for yourself!  Rather than “I want to be ____” try “I am ____”

Millennials want purpose and meaning in their careers; putting that mission into the present tense empowers them to create more results and opportunities for everyone they work with.

Then what?
Once you discover and express your purpose, it needs to tie into the values of your company and your teams.  As Nick said, “I never want [mission, purpose and values] to be just a plaque on the wall, it’s got to be alive and vibrant in our culture and in the behavior of our team.’’

This is especially important with cross-generational workforces.  For starters it’s not about seeking out other people’s values and trying to understand every person you meet (that would take a lot of time).  The real opportunity for you is to find the value alignment with the people you want to work in your company.

Why is value alignment so important?
When millennials are entering the work environment they’re starting to discover what their professional values are as part of a business team.  You can quickly find out if your purpose and values line up with potential team members with this simple exercise.  Let’s look at how to do this during the interview process (if you’re reviewing or redefining your value this can also be done with your current workforce during conversations and performance interviews):

  • During the interview process, put your purpose and values up front!  Clearly define them and lead the conversation with them.
  • Show potential team members what your purpose and values are.  Then ask, “Does that look like something you want to be a part of?” If the answer is no or they’re unsure, you save a lot of trouble for everyone involved.
  • If they say yes, then ask them “What resonates with you? What speaks to you about what you just read?”  Their answer will show they mean it.  You’re off to a great start at that point.

What’s next?
With these viewpoints on mission, purpose and values, what can you do today to create more meaningful dynamics with your team?



More about Nick
Nick Sarillo is the founder of Nick’s Pizza & Pub – the sixth busiest independent pizza company in the United States. Nick credits his company’s success to his purpose-driven culture, which is the focus of his new book, A Slice of the Pie: How to Build a Big Little Business. Nick is a regular speaker at HR conferences and his insights have been featured in The New York Times, The Economist, Inc., Fast Company and Investor’s Business Daily.

More about Mark J. Carter
Carter is the founder of ONE80, LLC: Bringing Conversations & Storytelling Back To Business… Through Idea Climbing™ Events, Marketing and Mentoring.  Over the past 15 years he has built networking organizations for young professionals, worked with and interviewed experts from New York Times Bestselling Authors to the Founder of the TED Conferences, and created mentoring programs to “demystify” the mentoring process for everyone involved.  Say hello to him on Twitter.


Collaboration, Insights