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Future leaders motivated by a sense of purpose according to new Oxford Saïd survey
13
Dec
2017

The next generation of business leaders puts purpose at the centre of their career, a new international survey amongst 19- to 26-year-olds shows.

The Future Skills Survey, conducted by Saïd Business School, found that 89% of respondents defined success as having a positive impact upon society and others, and sent a clear message to business that they should take a stronger stance on addressing societal issues. Almost two-thirds of respondents (63%) shared the view that too many businesses avoided taking a stand, while 60% called for businesses to have more CSR commitments in place to tackle today’s global challenges.

The survey, which assessed the views of 3,500 respondents in the UK, USA, South Africa and China, who were either at university or had graduated in the last three years, also calls into question the idea of working in an industry for life, with over two thirds (69%) stating they envisage having more than one career.  

Peter Tufano, Peter Moores Dean and Professor of Finance, Oxford Saïd, said: ‘So many of the views were shared globally, with young people across the globe embracing a societal purpose and insisting that business do so as well. Recent world events have encouraged some CEOs into the limelight to speak on the issues of the day while others have used political disarray to advance their narrow interests. Our survey results show that meaningful initiatives to address global agendas are no longer just ‘a nice to have’ but rather are demanded by young people and others in society. Leading business schools need to strengthen partnerships with academics across multiple disciplines and with corporates to support the next generation of leaders to successfully deliver value not only to shareholders but to the communities in which they operate and the broader world.’

The survey also found that the next generation is likely to go it alone in business with half of respondents wanting to be their own boss. Flexibility is a key driver behind this, with ‘a good work-life balance’ cited as the top career demand amongst respondents. Earning a significant pay check ranked just eleventh in the list of their career priorities.

2 in 3 respondents (67%) felt optimistic about their future careers but said that business success depended on developing a set of soft skills – most importantly problem-solving, communication, decision-making and leadership skills.

‘A desire for flexibility and control over their careers is causing people to reassess traditional career routes, making launching their own enterprise an attractive proposition,’ Professor Tufano commented. ‘This, combined with an understanding that technological advancement is changing the role of work, means we may be moving to a world in which individuals work in multiple industries and undertake several retraining periods in their long working lives. The challenge for business schools is to adapt and rethink the timing and structure of a ‘lifetime of education’, which our new digital programmes on fintech and blockchain start to address.’

The results were gathered via on online survey July-August 2017 from 3,711 graduates or recent graduates (that are either in university or have graduated in the last 3 years) aged 19-26.  The sample size breakdown:

  • China: 1,053
  • UK: 1,047
  • USA: 1,070
  • South Africa: 541

Note: Given the smaller sample size in South Africa, the data has been weighted to represent each country equally within global figures.