The next generation of HR Leaders faces a challenge, not only in terms of managing five different cohorts, but a growing diversity of employees across the board.
An October 2014 White House Council of Economic Advisers report describes Millennials as the largest, most diverse generation in the U.S. population, stating that “42 percent identify with a race or ethnicity other than non-Hispanic white, around twice the share of the Baby Boomer generation when they were the same age.”
One Misleading Trend
The Council also describes Millennials as having been shaped by technology, with a quarter of Millennials believing that their relationship with technology makes their generation unique. While the report discusses the number of ways technology has changed, from drastically improved computing power to the decreased costs of producing digital content, it fails to clarify how the interaction of 18-30 years olds with technology is any different from generations past.
Baby Boomer Homer Hickam certainly was motivated by the Space Age to become a NASA engineer. Would Baby Boomers have been Instagramming Woodstock or Tweeting about the Kennedy Assassination, the Beatles Invasion, or the Moon Landing? Instead of challenging the WOPR to Global Thermonuclear War in “Wargames,” Gen- Xer Matthew Broderick would be dominating the latest iteration of Halo.
As a Gen-Xer and pre-teen in the late -1970s, I was learning BASIC programming on Wednesday nights at the Impression 5 Museum in Lansing, MI. Our family had one of the first home computers, a TRS-80. One had to insert a cassette tape into the tape player, press “play,” and wait 5 minutes for the program to load. I’d often trade cassettes with my classmate Alex so that we could play “Flight Simulator” or “Zork.”
My classmate Kerry was one of the first to have an Apple computer – the IIc. Another classmate, Doug, attracted tech nerds alike to his house with the Commodore 64. Every generation is captive to the technology that was available at the time. I’m sure our pioneers forging the Oregon Trail would have taken advantage of GPS were it available.
Several Positive Trends
While calling Millennials uniquely tech savvy might be a stretch, the White House report does contain several key indicators that may prove beneficial for talent advisors and the HR community down the road. First, Millennials value community, family, and creativity in their work. Roughly half of Millennials want to live near family and friends, and 9 in 10 have close-knit relationships with their parents. An emphasis on elder care will occur. Similarly, alternative work scheduling will be seen as a priority to address family needs.
A second promising trend is the number of young adults entering the workforce with health insurance. “From the time the Affordable Care Act’s dependent coverage provision took effect in 2010 through the first quarter of 2014, the uninsurance rate among individuals ages 19 to 25 fell by 13.2 percentage points, a 40 percent decline.” Not only does this mean healthier employees being hired (which likely means less absenteeism and lower employer health care costs down the line), it also indicates that this age group has greater flexibility to find an employer that suits them (less turnover). The report indicates that Millennials are staying with their early-career employers longer than their Gen-X peers at the same age.
A final positive trend is that Millennial women are entering the workplace with greater labor market equality than the previous generation. “Starting in the late 1990s, just as the first Millennial cohorts were completing high school, women began to outpace men in the completion of both four-year college degrees and post-college educational attainment.” As a result, Millennial women are closing the wage gap with their male counterparts.
An increasingly diverse Millennial workforce carries several promises for the workplace of tomorrow – family friendly policies, a healthier lifestyle, and diminished wage discrimination. The job of the talent advisor will be even easier in the days ahead.