- Millennials are the most likely generation to speak up about an employers' actions or a controversial issue affecting society, according to a survey by public relations firm Weber Shandwick. The poll of 1,000 U.S. adults, conducted in partnership with United Minds and KRC Research, found 48% of millennials are employee activists, compared with 33% of Gen Xers and 27% of baby boomers.
- Survey results showed that respondents across generations believe workers have the right to speak up on issues, Weber Shandwick said, whether it's for or against an employer. But such actions may be perceived as risky; according to 79% of all respondents, speaking up against an employer can jeopardize a worker's job.
- Weber Shandwick recommended that employers address workers' concerns by embracing employee activism, communicating the organization's purpose and culture during the application and onboarding processes, being mindful of worker concerns, building a listening culture, and creating a response protocol.
The past twelve months have been witness to several instances of high-profile employee protest and organizing. Much of this has been union-related activity, as when 14,000 hotel workers nationwide walked off the job, demanding year-round benefits, and when patient-care workers in California — nearly 15,000 strong — walked off the job for three days in protest against the University of California's medical centers.
But others have seen such events, too. Perhaps the most notable is Google, which saw a stated 20,000 of its global workers stage a walkout last November in opposition to the tech giant's handling of sexual harassment complaints, pay inequity and arbitration. The company later tweaked policies somewhat in line with what protestors demanded.
As Weber Shandwick's data showed, being an employee activist can have consequences. Google workers Meredith Whittaker and Claire Stapleton have accused the company of retaliating against them for their activism. Employers must keep in mind that the National Labor Relations Act "forbids employers from interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of rights relating to organizing, forming, joining or assisting a labor organization for collective bargaining purposes, or from working together to improve terms and conditions of employment, or refraining from any such activity."