Category Archives: demographics

Will Those Millennial Enigmas Stay, or Not?

Forgive me, first off, for focusing yet again on millennials in the workplace. We’ve admittedly done more than our fair share of 84464529 -- millennial workersstories and blog posts on this demographic and what they need, and  apparently aren’t getting from many employers.

But it seems no matter how much we write, or how much we study them, we simply cannot get our heads around these younger workers, generally born between 1980 and the early 2000s. Do they come to work with far too many expectations and little regard for established protocol? Are they one of the sharpest generations, or not so? Do they communicate well on paper and face-to-face, or only through their mobile devices? Then there’s the million-dollar question: Are they loyal or are they going to leave their jobs as soon as something else looks more interesting?

We’ve all certainly heard and read about the latter, haven’t we? It appears to be a worry that’s been plaguing employers for some time now and hasn’t been letting up much either. Indeed, both our January-February cover story, “Millennials in Charge,” and our soon-to-be-published April cover story, “Engaging Gen Y,” mention this age group’s propensity for job-hopping. So does a recent Aon Hewitt study that finds nearly half of all working millennials intend to find new jobs this year.

But then come all the counter findings: the most recent from the U.S News & World Report’s Money site suggesting “the reality doesn’t back that up at all.” In fact, writes columnist Alison Green March on that site, “a report from Oxford Economics [written about on the Forbes site] found that millennials are no more likely than non-millennials to leave their jobs in the next six months.”

Just last month, HRE Editor Dave Shadovitz blogged about another study, this one from IBM, suggesting “millennials change jobs for the same reasons other generations do and are no more likely than older colleagues to leave a job to follow their passions.”

So who are these guys? And should we be worried or not? Better yet, are we simply overthinking all these demographics and putting way too much stock in the latest survey or study?

I put all this to my 30-year-old son who will have been working as a mechanical engineer at a firm in Philadelphia for eight years this April. Count ‘em: eight. First job out of college and he’s still there. That’s way more loyal than most studies indicate.

He’s a good texter, but he also communicates extremely well face-to-face. In his words: “I don’t really waste time thinking about those studies, but I do hear that about my generation from time to time.” Yea, the way I figure it, he’s way too busy flying to site visits and drafting up building, systems and circuitry designs to spend much time reading about how likely he is to job-hop.

“The generational-studies thing, I don’t really get it,” he says. “Seems like they do that with every new generation, right?”

Well, yes, but his generation seems to have gotten the lion’s share of attention, I tell him.

Then again, haven’t millennials always gotten the lion’s share of our attention? I’ve read that about us baby boomer parents in a number of studies as well.

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Considering the Stigma of Affirmative Action

Two recent studies out of the University of Michigan raise some troubling questions about just how far we’ve come as a diverse 468250323 -- diversity hiringnation, with equal access to all in life, school and work.

The most recent, published on the Phys.Org site just this past Monday, contains the unsettling finding that, although a credential from an elite university results in more employer responses for all applicants, black candidates from these prestigious universities do only as well in getting the job as white candidates from less-selective universities.

When our editorial team discussed this study at its Tuesday news meeting, “unsettling” wasn’t the word most used. “Sad” was the term of choice.

“These racial differences,” says the study’s author, S. Michael Gaddis, “suggest that a bachelor’s degree, even one from an elite institution, cannot fully counteract the importance of race in the labor market. Thus, both discrimination and differences in human capital contribute to racial economic inequality.”

One can’t help but wonder if some of those hiring managers and recruiters studied by Gaddis weren’t jaded by assumptions that such a collegiate star — at least on paper — was the recipient of favorable treatment and maybe easier hurdles to jump, thanks to affirmative action.

Which brings me to the other, earlier U-M research that essentially confirms — by carefully examining — the stereotypes many do, indeed, have about co-workers who advance through affirmative action and diversity initiatives.

Researchers David Mayer of the U-M’s Ross School of Business, Lisa Leslie of New York University’s Stern School of Business and David Kravitz of George Mason University’s School of Business examined research showing affirmative-action recipients being viewed as less competent and competing for company resources. Based on that, they say, they’re seen as less likeable by their colleagues, which can lead to negative assessments of their performance.

“People have all kinds of assumptions about what affirmative action means,” says Mayer. “A lot of people assume it’s about hiring people less qualified [than leading candidates] because they are a member of a protected group … .”

In Leslie’s words:

“Diversity initiatives are effective, but also produce unintended consequences that can limit the career success of the very groups of employees they are intended to benefit. Implementing an affirmative-action plan without taking steps to avoid unintended consequence is unlikely to be an effective solution.”

So what should employers do with all this? Researchers from the earlier study say none of the drawbacks mean companies should get rid of affirmative-action programs. Instead, they say, such programs should be implemented more effectively and positive outcomes, such as having high-level minority role models in business organizations, should be studied.

But how do we alter those silent, destructive mind-sets that very well could be impacting resume assessments where ethnicities are known? Those mind-sets that whisper “easier ride”?

Hard to say.

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Watching a Big Move to Help Women in Tech

A recent announcement by Facebook and LinkedIn that the two entities are joining forces to boost the dwindling numbers of women 462444481 -- women in techstudying technology and working in the field is certainly worth watching.

Short on a lot of details about the collaboration, the announcement still got an amazing amount of press because of the two parties involved — led, in part, by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

Sandberg has been a prominent advocate for women in the workplace, ever since her 2011 book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead came out. (Here is one of many pieces we’ve posted about her book and her premise that women need help fighting the barriers — some within themselves — that keep them from achieving leadership positions. Here is one other, primarily about her book and the “Lean In” support circles it aimed to spark in workplaces nationwide.)

As the first post quotes her from her book:

“We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in. [The result is that] men still run the world.”

Whether Sandberg and the people she’s working with think this inability to effect their own progress is a primary reason behind women’s dwindling numbers in technology studies and jobs isn’t real clear. Nor is it clear how much money each company is committing to this effort, or just how it will function. (The announcement simply says Sandberg and LinkedIn CEO Jeffrey Weiner will be “launching mentoring and support programs at colleges to get more women involved in studying technology in general, but also as future employees for their companies.”)

What is clear, though, is the fact that the talent pool is shrinking. According to the announcement, the percentage of people enrolled in undergraduate computer-science programs who are women peaked at 35 percent in 1985 and is now down to about 17 percent.

Clearly, something needs to be done. Will be interesting to see just what this initiative is and what it can do.

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Workplace Romance Seems to Be Alive and Well

187334194 (3)I’m sure no one needs a reminder that tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day. Ads on TV. Messages rotating on electronic billboards on your commute to work. Product displays at your neighborhood pharmacy. Valentine’s Day spam in your email. And, oh yes, at least for me, the barrage of press releases that arrive in my Outlook sharing the findings of this or that study on workplace romance.

Normally, I might give those press releases a quick read and hit the delete key. But a couple did catch my eye this time around. Take the following office-romance poll issued by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder. According to the poll, which was based on a representative sample of 3,056 full-time, private-sector workers, 37 percent of the respondents said they have dated a co-worker; and 30 percent of those office romances have led to marriage.

To me, those numbers are higher than I would have thought, but what do I know?

Harris and CareerBuilder then went on explore what work-related traits would make someone “undateable.”  Here’s what they found:

  • Doesn’t work on a consistent basis: 39 percent

  • Has already dated someone else at work: 25 percent

  • Travels extensively for work: 21 percent

  • Has to work nights: 8 percent

  • Earns less money than me: 6 percent

  • Has to work weekends: 6 percent

In case you’re wondering, women were much less likely than men to date someone who doesn’t work on a consistent basis (52 percent versus 28 percent of men), has previously dated a co-worker (29 percent versus 21 percent) and earns less than them (10 percent versus 2 percent).

Next up: Vault’s 2015 Office Romance Survey found 51 percent of business professionals said they participated in some type of “workplace relationship.”  (Again, higher than I would have thought.) Of those respondents, 21 percent reported they had an ongoing, yet casual relationship; 18 percent were involved in a random office hookup; 16 percent said they enjoyed a long-term serious relationship with a co-worker; and 10 percent said they met a spouse or partner at work. (Three percent selected other.)

“Regardless of success or failure, 63 percent said they would do it again,” the press release said.

The Vault findings also suggest that office romance is becoming more acceptable, with just 5 percent of the respondents saying no office romances are appropriate, down from 11 percent in 2011. (More respondents than ever—29 percent—are of the opinion that all romantic connections in the workplace are appropriate, including those between managers and their direct reports.)

It’s also worth noting—the Vault press release describes it as “the most surprising finding” of all—that HR professionals are among the most likely to have had some kind of fling with a colleague: 57 percent of respondents in the field admitted to having participated in a workplace romance at some point in their career.

At the other end of the spectrum, believe it or not, are marketing professionals (43 percent).

Not what I would have expected.

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Facing ‘Double Jeopardy’ in STEM

One hundred percent is normally associated with a perfect score in something, but a new academic study on race and gender in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is now casting that figure in a very imperfect light.

University of California Hastings School of Law Professor Joan C. Williams and the Center for WorkLife Law just released the report titled Double Jeopardy? Gender Bias Against Women of Color in Science, which demonstrates how subtle—and not-so-subtle—bias shapes the daily work lives of women in STEM, and how women’s experience of gender bias is shaped by race.

“This is the first time someone has asked women whether they have encountered in actual workplaces the specific types of gender bias documented in social psychologists’ labs,” said Williams.

Given the amount of attention recently paid to the lack of gender diversity in the tech space,  it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that women working in STEM fields have experienced some form of bias or discrimination in the workplace.

But perhaps the most startling result of the research was this: 100 percent of the women interviewed reported some sort of gender bias.

“But studies of gender bias generally focus on the experiences of white women, leaving unanswered the major question of whether the same patterns of bias extend to women of color,” Williams said. “This report finds that women of color experience pervasive gender bias—but in ways that often differ from the ways white women experience it.”

In essence, women of color working in the STEM fields find themselves in “double jeopardy” when it comes to dealing with bias in the workplace.

Significant findings of the report include:

  1. 100% of the women interviewed reported gender bias.
  2. Black women are more likely (77%) than other women (66%) to report having to prove themselves over and over again.
  3. The stereotype that Asians are good at science appears to help Asian-American women with students—but not with colleagues.
  4. Asian-Americans reported both more pressure than other groups of women to adhere to traditionally feminine roles and more pushback if they don’t.
  5. Latinas who behave assertively risk being seen as “angry” or “too emotional,” even when they report they weren’t angry; they just weren’t deferential.
  6. Latinas report being pressured by colleagues to do admin support work for their male colleagues, such as organizing meetings and filling out forms.
  7. Both Latinas and Black women report regularly being mistaken as janitors.

From the looks of the findings, there’s definitely a great deal of work to be done before the STEM playing field evens out. But the report introduces a new approach to organizational change to interrupt gender bias, called Metrics-Based Bias Interrupters, developed by Professor Williams last year.

Bias Interrupters uses a four-step iterative process: 1) survey women to find out whether they think gender bias is playing out in basic business systems (recruiting, assignments, evaluations, etc.); 2) develop objective metrics to test whether women’s perceptions are accurate; 3) implement “Bias Interrupters” to interrupt bias in real time; 4) see whether the relevant metric improves and, if it doesn’t, strengthen or modify the intervention.

Here’s hoping these “bias interrupters” can put a dent in that imperfect 100-percent score the next time research is done on the topic.

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For Women, ‘Assertive’ Still Means ‘Mean’

We really haven’t come that far, fellow females.

Not when recent polls show too many women in business — whether by their own fault or by their being mislabeled — are still being 162892062 -- bitchy bossperceived as too gruff, too assertive, too downright mean when they’re in positions of authority.

When Lawrence Polsky wrote an article about “bitchy bosses” earlier this year, he garnered hundreds of responses, clearly touched a nerve and sparked a nationwide conversation about why women leaders are perceived differently than men, according to one release I read about the article .

“Ninety percent of the leaders I have coached over the past 20 years [have been] women,” says Polsky, managing partner at the Princeton, N.J.-based global consulting firm PeopleNRG.com. “I have found the reason they are called bitchy or some  version of that, by their team or colleagues, comes down to one thing: the perception of being ‘too’ assertive. It can also be a way for employees to undermine a woman leader they don’t like or are jealous of.”

Polsky followed his article up by polling 221 professionals on their perceptions of the article for a survey he appropriately titled “Bitchy Bosses” as well.

That poll found:

  • 76 percent of women reported having a “bitchy boss” in the past, compared to 64 percent of men;
  • 89 percent said it reduced team productivity;
  • 87 percent said they or someone on their team left their job because of it;
  • 79 percent said it made them less motivated to do a good job;
  • 62 percent of men said they were lied to by the boss, compared to 52 percent of women;
  • 36 percent told human resources about the problem, yet only 10 percent said HR did anything to help the situation; and
  • 15 percent called in an outside consultant, and of those, 79 percent said that didn’t help.

A recent post on this blog by Senior Editor Andrew McIlvaine supports this notion that we have a problem out there, women. His post describes, as one linguist uncovered through her research, “what seems to be a powerful bias against women who are seen as ‘too assertive’ in the workplace — and the bias seems prevalent regardless of whether the review was conducted by a man or a woman.

That research, which surveyed 248 performance reviews from 28 companies, showed women received much more critical feedback than men did. (About 59 percent of men’s reviews included critical feedback, while nearly 88 percent of women’s did.)

Some of the criticisms against women written in the reviews included: “Stop being so judgmental” and “You can come across as abrasive sometimes.” In fact, the linguist found the word “abrasive” was used 17 times to describe 13 different women, but the word never appeared in men’s reviews. (McIlvaine’s post also includes a link to an HRE piece addressing this.)

More recently, in her October column addressing the scuffle caused by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s comments on women’s pay, Susan R. Meisinger, our HR Leadership columnist, acknowledges this double standard in how we come across affects pay as well.

“Some women aren’t comfortable asking for more money,” she writes, “because they fear it will adversely impact how they are perceived. The fear may be valid: Research shows that both male and female managers are less likely to want to work with women who negotiate during a job interview, since women who press for higher pay are considered pushy.”

Boy, we really can’t win for losing, can we?

Of special concern to Polsky, from the research he did, is that HR doesn’t appear to be all that effective in mitigating the perception problem, at least as it concerns female bosses.  What this means, in his estimation, is that:

“HR cannot rely on hearing about a bitchy boss from employees but must be proactive to discover if the problem exists. [HR leaders] need to look for clues, such as a leader complaining to HR: ‘The people on my team are not stepping up to the plate.’  Another sign is if you sit in team meetings and many team members are very quiet. Both are clues that there is no space for the team to contribute. This points to the fact that either the leader hasn’t built trust or is eroding it.”

He offers these tips for dealing with this issue (as well as how he gave them to me below). If HR does hear about this type of behavior in a female manager or leader:

  1. Encourage employees to talk directly to the boss. Direct feedback is the most helpful for leaders to understand the impact they are having. Our research showed 43 percent of people spoke to their troublesome boss about the problem and about one in five said it helped improve the situation.

  2. If more than one person brings it up, then they need feedback. This needs to come from their manager, not HR.  Why?  If they are to turn this around, it could get messy before it gets better.  They need their manager on their side through the process, to make them aware of the perception problem. Often, these leaders are not aware of how they are being perceived.  Their manager needs to discuss the situation with them.

  3. Oftentimes, the team and the leader need support to move through this problem.  The leader needs help pulling back and being less aggressive while the team needs help being more assertive.  Most of the times I have been involved, the team needed to learn to be more assertive to push back on an overly assertive leader’s aggressive communication. What often gets forgotten, and what we always do, is help the team go through a process of open, honest dialogue with the leaders. This creates healing and forgiveness. Employees will forgive and move forward if they believe the leader is sorry and will change.

  4. If the leaders do not change, after six months of coaching and support from HR and/or a qualified coach,  then they need to be moved to a different position where they can thrive or be removed from their job.

Also, overlook it, he says, if it’s a one-off. If there is only one person complaining, make sure this is not an employee with an axe to grind. Check into it. “I have seen where an employee with an axe to grind gave anonymous feedback to make the leader look bad,” Polsky says.

Also overlook it if the female leader has been charged with implementing a new vision/strategy/approach. “Employees,” he says, “might be complaining because the leader is  pushing them more than the previous manager/leader/situation required.”

This notion kind of feeds into a piece by Mark McGraw, posted here earlier this month, suggesting there are times when “being a jerk” can be effective in business. Unfortunately, the researchers in his piece don’t address the “bitch” factor, only the multi-gender “jerk” factor.

I guess the million-dollar question that has yet to be answered is: Why are women getting the lion’s share of the “bitch” complaints? And (perhaps for Polsky to take on in 2015) what can HR do to even that score?

 

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Microsoft CEO Touts Equal Pay after Apology

Satya_NadellaIt seems Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella (at right) is still in apologetic mode after making some ill-advised comments at a recent conference that, in essence, discouraged female employees from asking for raises.

Apologizing immediately afterward, Nadella now says in this Oct. 20 Time magazine online article, that men and women at Microsoft are paid equally. Clearly, the need for more positive spin is still there.

Here, in case you missed it, is Josh Eidelson’s Oct. 13 post on Bloomberg Businessweek‘s Politics & Policy site about whether Microsoft’s female employees have grounds for a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, based on what Nadella said onstage at the recent Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference in San Francisco.

The post also mentions that Nadella apologized and retracted what he said just hours later in a companywide email, calling his gaffe “completely wrong.” For the record and according to Eidelson, here was his egregious response to a question someone at the conference posed about what he would tell women who are hesitant to ask for a raise:

“It’s not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along. And that, I think, might be one of the additional superpowers that quite frankly women who don’t ask for a raise have. Because that’s good karma. It’ll come back, because somebody’s going to know that’s the kind of person that I want to trust. That’s the kind of person that I want to really give more responsibility to.”

Wilma Liebman, who chaired the NLRB during President Obama’s first term and now lectures at Cornell University, says in the post, “You could make a very clear argument that [such a comment] means, ‘Don’t ask for a raise, and if you ask for a raise, you’re not going to be trusted.’ And ‘you’re not going to be trusted’ translates to ‘you could be in some jeopardy.’ ”

The issue raised in the Businessweek piece, of course — since it considers NLRB review and possible enforcement of Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act — is whether Nadella’s message explicitly chills a protected concerted activity; i.e., a group of Microsoft women banding together in search of higher pay.

Lawyers are mixed on that one. “If a group of women said these comments chilled them from seeking together to get better pay in the workplace, they could file an unfair labor practice claim with the NLRB,” Paul Secunda, director of the Labor and Employment Law Program at Marquette University Law School, is quoted as saying in that story.

On the other hand, the story says, Samuel Bagenstos, a University of Michigan law professor and former Department of Justice official, doubts Nadella’s comments would merit NLRB review, considering he didn’t specifically address that kind of group activism. “Asking for a raise for oneself only would count as concerted activity if there was an argument that the employee was asserting a grievance that was or could be expected to be shared by others,” Bagenstos is quoted as saying.

Hope B. Eastman, principal at Bethesda, Md.-based Paley Rothman and co-chair of its employment law group, who I spoke with about this, concurs. “The fact that Nadella has apologized and retracted his statement, and the fact that his comment was in the context of an individual woman asking for a raise,” she says, “makes it unlikely that the NLRB would take this on … .”

That said, she adds, “there have been studies suggesting that women do not negotiate salaries as well as men; this is an issue that needs attention.” So the silver lining, I guess, is that this issue was given new light through Nadella’s comments.

The Businessweek piece also brings up another story we followed in 2011 on this blog, when the NLRB issued a complaint against Boeing, claiming executives’ public comments about striking employees in the state of Washington suggested they were to blame for the company’s intended move to a new South Carolina site at the time. (Here’s one other mention of that story on this blog.)

As Eidelson points out, that Boeing story establishes “precedent for investigating public comments from an executive as alleged discrimination.”

And — aside from staying on that apparently long, arduous road toward equal pay — what’s the message for HR in all this? I guess check with your C-suiters on absolutely everything they intend to say publicly before they take the podium or stage …

If that’s even possible.

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Could Gen Zers Help Solve STEM Skills Gap?

461252089 -- young scientistMore good news for employers when it comes to Gen Zers, the next generation — those now in high school and college — soon to enter the workforce en masse.

This just-released report from Chicago-based CareerBuilder says high-school seniors’ future career plans could very well clean up — or at least help bridge — that highly troublesome science, technology, engineering and math skills gap said to be barreling down the tracks.

According to the report, new research conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder and its subsidiary, Moscow, Idaho-based Economic Modeling Specialists International, shows nearly three in four of 209 high-school seniors polled already know what career they want to pursue, and STEM-related fields top their choices. (The survey queried 2,188 hiring and human resource managers, ages 18 and over, as well.)

The poll also finds the majority (97 percent) of high-school seniors plan to go to college to obtain a two-year or four-year degree or other training that may ultimately help close the talent gap. The most popular majors? You got it, mostly STEM-related. Here they are:

  1. Engineering
  2. Business
  3. Psychology
  4. Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  5. Physical Sciences
  6. Arts, Visual and Performing
  7. Computer and Information Sciences
  8. Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences
  9. English Language and Literature
  10. Math and Statistics

And here are the most popular choices for profession among the 73 percent of high-school seniors who know what they want to pursue (again, STEM-heavy):

  • Teacher
  • Engineer
  • Psychologist/Psychiatrist
  • Scientist – Biological/Physical/Social
  • Artist/Designer
  • Veterinarian
  • Machine Operator
  • Computer Programmer
  • Physician
  • Government Professional
  • Nurse

This seems to work quite nicely alongside a news analysis I posted on HREOnline on Tuesday, the same day the first truly definitive study on Gen Zers was released by Millennial Branding, based in New York, and Randstad, with U.S. headquarters in Atlanta.

That study, Gen Y and Gen Z Workplace Expectations, shows Gen Zers are more rooted in prudent and pragmatic notions about how work gets done and what is needed to succeed than their Gen Y predecessors (ages 21 to 32).

“Gen Zers … appear to be more realistic instead of optimistic, are likely to be more career-minded, and can quickly adapt to new technology to work more effectively,” Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding and author of Promote Yourself, told me for that piece.

They’ve also seen how much their parents and Gen Yers have struggled in the recession, he said, so “they come to the workplace well-prepared, less entitled and more equipped to succeed.”

Basically, Schawbel told me, they’re willing to work harder toward goals and have fewer illusions about what it takes to achieve them.

As the daughter, granddaughter and mother of scientists and engineers, I’ve lived through the hard work, stamina and — yes — realism involved in and needed for such pursuits.

So I have to say, I foresee only good things when you put these two reports together.

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What’s Next for Work and Workers?

Was it Yogi Berra who said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future?” Or maybe it was Neils Bohr or Mark Twain? (There appears to be some debate out there.)

Whoever it was who said it, I’m sure you’ll agree predicting what things will be like five or 10 years from now isn’t for the faint of heart. But that’s precisely what the SHRM Foundation set out to do through its research project on the changing nature of work and the resulting implications for HR professionals.

462910713At a press conference yesterday during Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference in Orlando, SHRM Foundation Executive Director Mark Schmit shared some of the key findings from the just-released study titled “Evolution of Work and the Worker.” (The 50-page report was published by the Foundation and written by The Economist Intelligence Unit.)

Among some of many findings featured in the report:

  • An aging population in developed countries will continue to put a strain on those remaining workers. In Japan, for example, the old-age-dependency ratio—the ratio of those ages 65 and over to those ages 15 to 64—is set to grow from 38 percent in 2012 to 47 percent in 2017. Meanwhile, many emerging countries are facing an increase in the number of younger workers, with more than half of the population in the Middle East and North Africa under age 25.
  • In developed countries, women are poised to enter the workplace in vast numbers, posing problems for those organizations that have failed to utilize “the female potential fully,” according to the report. Many of these women will become “part of a growing army of temporary and part-time workers, many of whom are not physically present in the workplace.”
  • The world, as a whole, is becoming more educated, with the expansion of those with post-secondary education in rapidly developing countries reducing the proportion of college graduates from Europe, Japan and the United States globally. Should this trend continue, “China and India alone could account for 40 percent of young people with a tertiary education in all G20 and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries by the year 2020, while the United States and European Union combined would contribute over one-quarter.”
  • There will be a continuing decline of “middle-wage, middle-skilled workers in developed countries—or a “hollowing of the middle.” There’s “a bubble at the top end of skills and a bubble at the bottom end of skills” that’s leaving many people in the middle without jobs, Schmit explained.
  • Technology will continue to erode physical barriers and transform the nature of work. More and more, technology is creating new jobs and eliminating others—and is enabling previously isolated countries to participate in the global economy.

The SHRM Foundation plans to follow this report (part of its Thought Leadership Initiative) with two additional studies on “engaging and integrating a global workforce” and the “use of talent analytics for competitive advantage.” But for now, it’s already given those in the profession plenty to chew on. Even if only a handful of the predictions were to occur, HR’s agenda five or 10 years from now will look remarkably different than it does today.

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Innovation Central

One of the most dynamic sessions at this year’s Health & Benefits Leadership Conference was the “Ideas and Innovators” session, in which experts from a variety of fields give five-minute presentations summarizing their thoughts on what HR leaders should do differently with regard to benefits.

Here’s a sampling of what some of them had to say: Lindsey Pollak, a millennial workplace expert and spokeswoman for The Hartford insurance company, called on companies to encourage mentoring between baby boomers and millennials. “Ninety percent of the millennials we surveyed said they appreciated guidance from boomers,” she said. “Millennials are digital natives, so they can mentor boomers in the use of technology.”

Millennials want the ability to customize their benefits, she said: “Millennials weren’t given teddy bears as kids; they were taken to Build-a-Bear workshops — they’re used to having things tailored for them.”

The same Hartford survey found that 70 percent of millennials consider themselves leaders, whether in their families, workplaces and communities. Companies can harness this leadership spirit for health and wellness, said Pollak — yet must keep in mind that millennials have also proven to be slow to sign up for benefits such as disability insurance. “Millennials aren’t taking advantage of these benefits — you must reach them on this.”

Brian Poger, founder and CEO of consulting firm Benefitter, urged employers to consider getting out of the business of providing health benefits (perhaps an odd thing to hear at a conference devoted to employee benefits). “Most employee raises are being absorbed by rising healthcare costs,” he said. “Why not offer cash instead of health benefits?”

Poger cited a McKinsey survey that found 85 percent of employees would stay with their employer even if they stopped offering health benefits. Many employers are charging signficantly higher premiums for spousal and family coverage or dropping it altogether, he said, which can be a major hardship for families earning the U.S. median household income of $51,000 a year. “Giving employees cash to purchase a family policy on the exchanges may be a better deal for them,” he said.

Lexie Dendrinelis, health promotion and wellness leader at manufacturing firm Barry-Wehmiller Cos., discussed how her company has made leadership and culture — rather than exercise and eating well — the centerpiece of health and wellness. “People can’t focus on their personal health if they’re stressed out about an unsafe workplace,” she said. “Building trustworthy leaders and cultures is the best intervention.”

At Barry-Wehmiller, the company has committed to building a “caring culture” where “we are committed to sending our friends home safe, well and fulfilled.” The company uses incentives and rewards to highlight positive behaviors and takes a “holistic approach” to caring for its employees and families, said Dendrinelis. “We are looking at creating a thriving culture that will bring down healthcare costs.”

 

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