Millennial Females Enjoy Options Baby Boomers Didn’t

If you can believe what you read, the Millennials may not be left with a world that is better than the world Baby Boomers inherited. But that conclusion is not a given. It will take a few more decades sort things out.

What we do know for sure right now is that life is different for Millennial women than it was for Baby Boomers when they were the same age. What a better place to start than what it was like to go to work in the 1950s compared to the present day.

Millennial FemalesMillennials females, especially in the U.S., have a world of opportunity that just didn’t exist in 1950. Few female Millennials could imagine being turned down when they tried to open a bank account because they are single or required to get a husband to cosign a loan in order to start a new business. (And boyfriends and partners don’t count because it was illegal in most states for unmarried couples to cohabitate!) And let’s not ignore the ability for an employer to fire you on the grounds you were pregnant…and the woman had no recourse.

For an aging Boomer like me it’s particularly disturbing and even embarrassing to admit these situations even existed in my lifetime. But they did and it’s an important reminder that despite the challenges that exist today, the world may still be a better place even though it is far from perfect.

To get this party started, let’s compare a day-in-the-office in 1955 and 2015.

Joe and Sue Arrive at Work

Baby Boomer Femaie1955 – Joe arrives at the office in his suit and tie, carrying his leather monogrammed brief case. He heads right for his private office where his secretary Sue is waiting patiently.  Sue arrived a few minutes earlier dressed in her conservative colored dress or suit wearing high heels. As soon as Sue arrived at her desk outside Joe’s office, she rushed off to get him his first cup of coffee before he arrived. When Joe arrives, she greets Joe with a “Good morning, Mr.Boss” then exits his office to empty his ashtray filled with cigarette butts. She returns in a minute with a clean ashtray to start his day and hangs his dry cleaning that she picked up for him. She then pulls out her stenographer’s pad, pulls up a chair, and begins taking notes.

2015 – Joe arrives in his tee shirt and jeans carrying a back pack and bike helmet. Sue arrives in skin-tight jeans and a top showing some cleavage, revealing the small tattoo on her right breast. Both are carrying cups of Starbucks coffee…and a bottle of water. Sue and Joe grab seats in the “bullpen” with all the other associates. After giving each other a morning hug and fist-pump, both Sue and Joe head off to the lunch area and pop in a K-cup to refill their coffee cups. (Did I forget to mention that Sue is now the CEO and Joe works in sales?)

While life for Sue and Joe is representative of many workplaces it is definitely not universal.  So allow me to highlight a few more scenarios that are distant but real memories for Baby Boomers and things Millennials may take for granted.

  • Up until the 1960s, a bank could refuse to issue a credit card to an unmarried woman; even if she was married, her husband was required to cosign. Women were not able to apply for credit until theEqual Credit Opportunity Act in 1974.
  • Many women who did enter college pursued a “Mrs” more than the BS or BA. An educated woman was considered to be a threat to a husband’s self-esteem. Many females bypassed college or deliberately produced “C” work in order to avoid embarrassing a male suiter.
  • Top schools were off-limits. With the exception of Penn and Cornell, Ivy League schools were closed to women until 1969. Harvard didn’t admit women until 1977. Columbia delayed admitting women until 1981.
  • Women were kept out of jury pools until 1973 because their primary responsibility was considered to be caregivers. They were also thought to be too fragile to hear the grisly details of crimes and too sympathetic by nature to be able to remain objective.

Before anyone dislocates his shoulder patting himself on the back for all this “progress,” take a deep breath. New laws and regulations have done a lot to improve equality, but we still have a long way to go. Women in the C-level are still the exception and gender wage gaps prevail. The good old boy network still exists and many still believe the ideal role of a woman is to be barefoot and pregnant. It is however helpful to reinforce with Millennials how much gender equality has improved and to remind Baby Boomers how much more work needs to be done.

Is It True What They Say About Millennials?

Published in the November 9, 2015 issue of Lehigh Valley Business Journal

What you hear (and maybe even believe) about millennials is not always true.

That was the gist of my keynote at the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce Manufacturers’ Summit VIII on the morning of Oct. 28 and attended by more than 80 business and workforce leaders. The theme was, “Is it true what they say about millennials?”

The message was reinforced when six father-son panelists discussed how they deal with generational differences in their respective businesses.

Ira S Wolfe MillennialsI opened my keynote by holding up a floppy disk to show how different generations view the world differently. Workers over 30 vividly remember the object.

Younger workers, however, thought it was cool that someone 3-D printed a model of the “save” icon.

The point is that few workers under 25 have ever used, let alone seen, a floppy disk (or 8-track or 45 rpm record, for that matter), but most workers over 35 assume everyone has.


Millennials, to be sure, are different. But that’s not good or bad.

The members of every generation are different from their parents’ generation for a simple reason. They were born and grew up in a different time and place. They have different memories, different influences and different historical moments.

Baby boomers grew up crawling under school desks to protect themselves in case the Russians attacked. Today, millennial (and Generation Z) students experience lockdowns when a classmate brings an automatic weapon to school.

Different times change how each of us view the world. That’s just life. It’s not bad. It’s just different.

The consensus of the presenters and audience was that generations are more similar than different.

Each generation has extroverts and introverts. They have some people with great work ethic and others whose best skills are negativity and bad attitude. Each cohort has leaders and followers, superstars and slackers.


Participants Millennials in WorkplaceDuring the question-and-answer session, one businessperson asked how to get older and younger workers to engage with other.

I fell back on a trusty tool – the DISC assessment. (DISC is a behavior assessment tool that centers on four traits: dominance, influence, steadiness and compliance.)

The root of many conflicts has more to do with “how” someone might interact with others or approach work, and little to do with intentions. It’s the introvert who seems aloof but really is just observing or thinking.

The same goes for the extrovert who thrives by talking things out but is perceived as a blowhard.

But once you get to know the person, you realize how sometimes first impressions don’t paint a true picture.


With tools such as DISC, workers from different generations may begin to recognize that many styles and values cross generational boundaries. In fact, boundaries blur and similarities open doors.

DISC doesn’t solve all problems, but without getting different generations talking with each other, generational gaps will only widen.

Much to my surprise, two of the companies on the panel confirmed they were already using DISC to help bring their multigenerational workforces closer.


Throughout the hour-long summit, several themes kept coming up from baby boomer fathers and millennial sons. These sentiments were echoed by the audience and moderator, a millennial recruiter from Crayola.

The three businesses at the summit attributed part of their success and low-employee turnover, even among millennials, to a few reasons:

(1) They all manage a flat organization with little hierarchy. They give young and old workers a “seat at the table.”

(2) They all have a story to share, and their employees are an integral part of it. (You can tell by their passion and enthusiasm that “people are our most important asset” isn’t just a set of words but a way of life for them.)

(3) Purpose and community involvement of the business and their employees are drivers for growth and high retention.

(4) They became more flexible with time, creating collaborative workspaces, allowing telecommuting, adapting benefits and rewarding an “intrapreneurial” spirit of workers.

(5) They focus on similarities and value differences between generations.


I closed my address with the following: “Millennials didn’t create the environment that they live in. [Baby boomers and older Gen X parents] did. They grew up in our world. Don’t make millennials scapegoats for how they were educated, how they work and how they play because we shaped their lives.”

But my favorite quote of the morning was by Bill Hindle, president of Easton-based HindlePower Inc. His words epitomized the attitude about how his company, like the others, exudes success and leadership especially when dealing with millennials and the multigenerational workforce.

“Tattoos don’t tell the character of the person,” he said.

Millennials’ attitudes are not poles apart like the media and many consultants want you to believe. For sure, there are differences, but similarities between individuals trump the different world-views that arise from growing up in different times.

Ira S. Wolfe is president of Lehigh Valley-based Success Performance Solutions and author of “Recruiting in the Age of Googlization” and “Geeks, Geezers and Googlization.” He can be reached at or 484-373-4300.

Does this mean college education is not important?

For years employers have complained that our education systems were not preparing students to meet the demands and expectations of employers. Only 28 percent of recent college graduates were rated as excellent by employers in the area of critical thinking skills (and a disturbing 0 percent rating for high school grads). This comes at a time where critical thinking, complex problem solving, and judgment were the top 3 skills in demand for 9 out of 10 top jobs.

Graduation Career Choices - MBA?The message is clear. Employers are telling schools, colleges, and universities to **** or get of the pot!

As a first step a few organizations are beginning to make a statement.  They have scrapped academic accomplishment in exchange for skill-based criteria as a minimum hiring requirement.

Ernst and Young, one of the largest recruiters of college grads, “found no evidence to conclude that previous success in higher education correlated with future success in subsequent professional qualifications undertaken.” Even earlier PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) adopted a similar stance.  Since many employers seem to follow the lead of both of these highly respected organizations, other organizations are likely to follow.

The bottom line is that employers need competent talent. They need to be certain that new hires can compete in today’s volatile, uncertain, and ever-changing workplace. Many are finally doing what it takes to acquire it, even if that means discarding several sacred cows of employee selection, including minimum education requirements.

How dire is the situation?

Edward Gordon, a respected thought leader and author of several books on the employment skills crisis, recently wrote in his newsletter that the

“mismatch between [job skills required and preparedness of workers] has been building for more than 20 years. It is a structural and systemic economic issue directly related to obsolescent education-to-employment systems at the regional and national levels and the failure of businesses to provide training to new and incumbent workers.”

He continues:

“It has become very apparent that partial reforms, piecemeal plans, and concession to the status-quo have placed much of the current and future workforce in jeopardy…defending an outdated workforce preparation system designed for a less-demanding 20th-century labor market. That era has disappeared.

Does this mean college education is not important?

Hardly. Don’t even think for a moment that a college education doesn’t help develop skills such as time management, commitment, and the ability to prioritize. It also provides an ample foundation of functional skills in areas of language, finance, science. But as far as employers trusting that a college degree implies adequate preparation for decision making and problem solving – forget about it. And as far as securing a good paying job with any assurance of employability 5 to 10 years from now, high school diploma only jobs are surely headed for extinction.

Schools and universities must start delivering graduates with workforce ready skills. If they don’t respond quickly, candidates won’t pay for it and employers won’t depend on college education as the door-opener for a good paying career.

For employers, it’s time to reevaluate your minimum hiring requirements especially minimum education. In order to avoid missing out on talent, what are the best predictors of future success if a four-year degree isn’t one of them?

What’s Ahead in Recruiting for Q4 2015

The success of your company depends on a team of qualified, competent, and engaged employees who keep every aspect of your business running smoothly. But according to the Jobvite 2015 Recruiting Nation Survey, the ability to be fully staffed and productive is getting much harder. Fifty-six percent of recruiters are hurting for skilled or qualified candidates. In many industries the problem is much worse.  The CEO of the National Association of Home Builders describes the situation as “an epidemic.” The Associated General Contractors survey reports 86 percent of commercial builders are having trouble filling hourly and salaried positions. Sixty-five percent of HR officials at small companies are struggling.
hiringStories like this pop up in the news on an almost daily basis. And it doesn’t seem to matter if the company is large or small, product- or service-oriented, domestic or international.
There are a number of reasons why filling open positions quickly is getting worse in the U.S. as well as in many other countries.
Growth:  While the economy is not robust, it has been growing at a steady pace and is expected to continue.  Many companies are hiring especially in skilled positions. While this is great news for their companies – and the economy in general – it can be a challenge for hiring managers to fill many positions quickly enough to keep their companies operating efficiently. But 95 percent of recruiters expect the hunt for talent to remain or grow more competitive.
Recruiting Options:  The growth of the Internet has led to an explosion in recruiting opportunities.  Job seekers used to rely on classified ads and word of mouth; now, they can use job search engines like Indeed, job boards like Craigslist and Monster; social media, online recruitment agencies, and corporate recruiting websites.  This onslaught of new job-seeking opportunities has made it made it ridiculously easy to apply for jobs and more difficult for companies to screen and vet a high volume of applicants efficiently.

Time:  Most hiring managers are bombarded with multiple tasks, from placing ads to screening and interviewing potential job candidates.  The average hiring manager spends 4.5 minutes reading each resume that lands on his or her desk and 15 hours each week sourcing candidates.  And yet, because of the high volume of resumes coming in combined with inadequate applicant management capabilities, the time to hire hit an another record high recently at 29 days.  For jobs requiring more advanced skills and for companies looking to find candidates who have the right skills and fit the culture, 6 months or longer is fairly common.

As you can imagine, there are several business-changing consequences to these trends:

  • Too many unqualified applicants congest the hiring process, making it harder to find qualified applicants.
  • While jobs remain unfilled, related tasks are either delegated to inexperienced staff, or not performed at all.  In both cases, the company’s overall productivity and profitability suffers.
  • Conversely, jobs are filled by people who are a poor fit for the job, either temperamentally or professionally.  This leads to poor organizational synergies, low productivity, and overall inefficiency.
  • HR teams spend too little time with applicants to determine whether they’re right for the position, resulting in the hire of unqualified or poor fit candidates.
The new reality is if your business is going to compete effectively for and hire the most talented people in your industry, traditional recruiting practices are no longer good enough. They must be multi-faceted, streamlined and responsive too.

Millennials Aren’t So Different After All

Plato was said to have complained that young people “disrespect their elders” and “ignore the law”. Peter the Hermit griped that they “think of nothing but themselves” and are “impatient of all restraint”. Child-rearing expert Haim Ginott scolds parents who talk about the younger generation as if they didn’t have anything to do with it.

Millennial Generation

Millennials Aren’t Do Different After All

For centuries older generations have been reprimanding young workers about their lack of loyalty and work ethic.

Let’s start with the hypocrisy of loyalty – managers and executives seem to like to call the kettle black. They forget how mergers and acquisitions led to wholesale job terminations, how outsourcing and offshoring decimated production floors and call centers, how pension plans were raided and guaranteed benefits erased, and how greed stifled wages and benefits for the past 30 to 40 years.  Generation X and Millennials are the by-product of companies and even government terminating their parents’ job and disrupting career paths. Is it any wonder they don’t trust management? Who could blame them for taking back as much control over their careers as possible?  Loyalty is a two-way street and much like our infrastructure, the side that corporate America controls has crumbled.

What was good for the goose became good for the gander and workers responded accordingly.  It happened in the 1990s when Generation X entered the labor market and Baby Boomers complained about the Gen X free agent attitude. And then a decade or so later, Millennials came along.  And guess who was doing the loudest griping this time -Gen X.  Yep, history repeated itself – just as the Matures and Veterans complained about Baby Boomers and our great-great-grandparents dwelled on the attitudes of their kids, Gen X bellyached about the flighty-no-loyalty-lousy-work-ethic Millennials.

Are you getting the picture? Today, managers, older workers, and the media tend to paint the Millennials as a privileged, narcissistic, entitled bunch of spoiled job hopping Trophy Kids. As every new generation enters the work force, it’s amazing how quickly they’re mislabeled with attributes that are common to young people. These labels tend to stick, and they become increasingly inaccurate as the generation ages (assuming they were at all accurate to begin with).To paraphrase Jennifer Deal (Center for Creative Leadership) and Alec Levenson (University of Southern California), most generalizations about millennials as employees are “inconsistent at best and destructive at worst.”

Truth be told most Millennials get a bum rap as the current older generations abuse the privilege of age as much as anyone ever did.

The numbers don’t lie. When economists compare people who started their careers in the 1980s with people who started their careers in the early 2000s, they find that the two generations (Gen X v. Millennials) are more or less identical in terms of how often people change jobs – about 50 percent change jobs each year. That turns out to be 6.3 jobs for Millennials between the ages of 18 and 25 and 6.2 jobs for Gen X when they were the same age. And how about those loyal company “men” – the Baby Boomers?  Well, they too worked an average of 5.5 jobs by the time they reached age 25. In other words, when young people change jobs and look for new opportunities to learn and grow, it does not represent a lack of loyalty; it’s simply the time in their lives when they are seeking these experiences.

The commonality between generations just doesn’t stop at job change either. Studies from CEB and Center for Creative Leadership reveal how much workers of different generations have in common. Every generation has their share of introverts and extroverts, capitalists and socialists, superstars and lost souls, givers and takers. But as a group they want roughly the same things regardless of when they were born: to be given interesting work to do, to be rewarded on the basis of their contributions and to be given the chance to work hard. And like Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, the top three motivating factors for changing jobs are to enter the fast lane (by far the most popular for all generations), shoot for the top, and follow one’s heart.

The truth is that although millennials may be the “selfie” generation, they also care about the world around them. They want jobs that affect social change, and they give what they can.  Contrary to popular belief millennials rate “contribute to society,” “correct inequalities” and “be a leader in the community” higher than baby boomers did when they were younger.

The first wave of Millennials is rising up the ranks at work and shaping — or making — key business decisions. It’s important to understand the impact they’re having on today’s changing workplace – from jobs they will hold to parental leave and same sex benefits. So, what’s really going on? Commonality between generations is not time for complacency or finger pointing. It’s time to dispel the myths and respond to the truths.  And the truth is that our society and our workplaces will never return to the good old days. Companies and workers can either fall victim to the change or become agents to shape the good new days. Technology, automation, and globalization have no innate bias. They target all people, regardless of age and without discrimination. Whether you belong to the oldest generations or the youngest Gen Z, adaptation is necessary. And to accomplish that, collaboration and communication between generations is essential.

(Published in Business2Business Magazine, September 2015)

Best Practices for Creating a Multi-Generation Workforce

Today’s multigeneration workforce poses unique challenges to employers. If your organization lacks an understanding of what individuals in each generation need and want, you risk lower productivity, increased turnover and conflict within and between departments and teams.

mulit-generation workforceOlder workers can become frustrated when they work with what they see as an aloof, spoiled younger generation seeking instant gratification. Younger employees can become disillusioned with bureaucracy, hierarchy and the phrase “that’s not the way we do it around here.” Those stuck in the middle — Generation X — are annoyed equally by upstart millennials attempting to leapfrog over them and by graying baby boomers standing in the way of their rise through the ranks.

The way to keep the peace is to achieve “generational competence” by making adaptations necessary to meet the diverse needs of workers of different ages. Employers will be better able to attract, retain and motivate talented people if they recognize what drives each generation and take those factors into account as they develop approaches to recruiting, hiring, onboarding and employee engagement.

Here’s my list of best practices for creating a great place to work — for everyone.

  1. Build a broad employer brand. For the first time in history, we have four generations (and soon five) working side by side. It’s not unusual today to see a 70-year-old and a twentysomething in the same office, alongside people from several generations in between. Effective branding requires paying attention to each of those audiences. An older job candidate may prefer to tour your facility in person, while a millennial applicant will almost certainly watch a video tour online. Make sure your recruitment efforts cater to each.
  2. Promote generational competence. Be aware that your managers likely need training on how to effectively supervise a multigenerational workforce, particularly when it comes to giving feedback. For example, boomer managers accustomed to once-a-year formal performance reviews may struggle with millennials, who thrive with ongoing feedback and prefer mentoring over constructive criticism. While all employees should be expected to meet the same standards, today’s most successful leaders find ways to give individual feedback when and how their direct reports need it.
  3. Mentor up, down and across your organization. Pairing less-experienced people with veteran employees can help multiple generations develop a better understanding of one another, in addition to transferring crucial skills. Mentoring partnerships are no longer just about matching a younger worker with an older, more senior employee. Ideally, mentoring and “reverse mentoring” programs foster the exchange of ideas and information up and down and laterally within an organization. Mentoring options include traditional one-on-one sessions, small-group meetings or discussion panels where a speaker presents to a large group.
  4. Realize that we’re more alike than we are different. The best places to work boost collaboration and engagement by focusing on shared principles and goals that all employees can embrace, regardless of their age. The members of your multigenerational workforce have more in common than you or your managers may realize — and that’s a strength worth building on.

Previously published on

Baby Boomers Still Got Game; Where Does That Leave Gen X, Gen Y?

Boomers still “got some game” in their life and work and, unfortunately for Gen X and Gen Y who were poised to take the field, they have hit what I called the “gray ceiling” – the inability of younger generations to be promoted and move up the organizational chart.

baby boomer v gen yDon’t worry Gen X and Gen Y (also called Millennials), Boomers can’t live forever. But for now, the apocalyptic silver tsunami that many economists predicted has rained on the workforce more like a sun shower. One day Boomers will finally retire completely…or at least slow down. But for now, the labor force participation rate for people 55 and older is near its highest level in several decades, up by approximately one-third since 1990.

A combination of delayed retirements, improving but still slow job growth, and increasing life expectancy has disrupted the once orderly exodus of older workers and the entrance of younger ones. A recent report by AARP  finds that one-third (33 percent) of older workers are delaying the age at which they expect retire and nearly half are now planning to work part-time after they reach retirement age. Economist Matthew Rutledge calls this idea the “the lump of labor”: “There’s only a certain amount of jobs out there, and if an old person’s holding that job that means a young person isn’t.”

Millennials who complain, “It’s not fair” are justified to some extent especially with all the hype pre-2010 when the first Baby Boomers turned 65 and the retirement floodgates were supposed to open.  It’s like an Olympian enduring years of practice preparing for the big event and at the last minute the event is cancelled. “Why can’t you be like all the generations before you? Retire, play golf and bridge, go to the rest home, or die? It’s our turn to play.”

What does this gray ceiling mean for employers?  For some it translates into complacency. Unfortunately, that’s the absolute worst option management could choose.  The longer a company can hold on to older experienced workers is a good plug for the brain drain but bad stand-alone strategy for future growth and sustainability. It just postpones the inevitable. Besides, complacency and procrastination nearly always backfire. What are better options?

Pay attention to Gen X

Companies must begin to recruit and hire and promote younger workers.  Generation X, who has patiently been waiting, is next in line for management and leadership roles.  With these roles at highest risk for turnover, enforcing the gray ceiling may force these heirs apparent to follow their dreams and careers elsewhere…and there are plenty of opportunities available.

Boomers Will Act Their Age – Eventually

But succession planning shouldn’t stop at the top. No position is immune from an unexpected job opening particularly in companies that have enjoyed long tenure by Baby Boomers and low turnover.  Whether it’s time off to travel, replace a hip, treat cancer, deal with an ailing parent or spouse, or just spend time with the grandchildren, Baby Boomers will eventually begin to act their age. The more physical the job (and this includes jobs that require a lot of travel or long hours) the more likely a Baby Boomer will be forced to cut back sooner than later.

All Good Things Come to an End

Finding new talent is just the tip of the iceberg when succession planning these days. While Baby Boomers may be the last generation that enjoyed 30 and 40 plus year careers at the same company, Millennials will seek multiple careers. For many young workers, five years in the same job is a lifetime! Succession planning isn’t just a matter of finding more high-potential talent but dealing with higher rates of turnover.

Arghhh! The Dreaded Multi-Generation

Another insidious impact of the gray ceiling is that allows many organizations to avoid addressing the inevitable changes that are disrupting many company cultures. It is the event that sends chills up and down the spine of many managers. It’s the dreaded generational gaps.  As long as Baby Boomers stay put and replacement can be avoided, managers can avoid dealing with the multi-generation workforce.

But as sure as the sun will rise in the East tomorrow, every manager in every company will be faced with managing multiple generations.  In some organization that could mean 5 generations working side-by-side – Matures (also called Veterans), Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z.  This unprecedented generational smorgasbord is enough to turn even a Millennial’s hair gray. From attitudes about work and career to vacation schedules to training and development, each generation has different needs and wants. Breaking down barriers and bridging gaps is no task for the faint of the heart, naïve, or unprepared.

That leads up to these key questions:

  1. How prepared is your organization to replace older workers?
  2. How prepared is your organization to recruit, manage, motivate, and retain a multi-generational workforce?
  3. What infrastructure (policies to work environment) do you have in place that will become obsolete?
  4. What infrastructure (policies to work environment) will need to be created or tweaked?

If you can’t answer all those questions with confidence, the only advice I have is – good luck! Without a talent management and succession plan to ensure a smooth transition, every company’s productivity and competitiveness is vulnerable.

Baby Boomers Then and Now

Before the Millennials, Baby Boomers were the most talked about demographic in the U.S. By virtue of their sheer numbers, 78 million strong, Boomers transformed everything from our housing market to Social Security to our workforce. But Baby Boomers, or those born during the post wartime ‘baby boom’ of 1946 and 1964, have grown up and are now ages 51 to 66. 

social security for baby boomersSince the Boomers have previously driven societal trends for the past 50 years, it is likely the Boomers will continue to exert their influence on the way we live and work. The future that the once-idealistic young adult Baby Boomer envisioned didn’t quite pan out. Many Boomers are experiencing (or will experience) major life changes like caring for an elderly parent, health changes to them or a spouse, careers that begin or end and many more. These changes have financial consequences and of course will impact their quality of life, their goals and spending habits moving forward.

Let’s take a look at where Boomers are now as a group and as individuals.

Some are retired but many are still working

Remember when Baby Boomers were forecast to leave their jobs in mass at their earliest eligibility? The apocalyptic forecast warned us that 8,000 Baby Boomers turned 65 each day … suddenly employers would experience a mass exodus. The reality is that they are staying put. Many are starting second careers and businesses. Sixty one percent reportedly work because they want to, not because they have to. A MetLife Mature Market Institute survey updated those results in 2013, showing that more than half of those boomers born in 1946 have now fully retired—up from 19 percent in 2007 and 45 percent in 2011.

Many Baby Boomers aren’t downsizing their homes

Housing is an area that demonstrates some of the distinctions within the Boomer generation. Only about 21 percent of this group is actively downsizing their living space, the highest percentage of any age bracket. And 25 percent of Boomers want bigger homes, perhaps to house all of the possessions that they accumulated and possibly a teenage dependent. Fanny Mae research also notes that many Boomers currently display no hurry to trade in their houses for retirement condos, much to the surprise of real estate professionals. One reason is that Boomers far outnumber Generation X, the chronological successor generation who traditionally have purchased homes from retirees and older generations. Generation X is also only about half the size of the Baby Boomer generation which means fewer buyers. Finally we have the up-and-coming Millennials who unfortunately are not looking to purchase large homes or are able to afford them.

Boomers are retiring in place, close to their families

Baby Boomers are staying where they are, according to Census Bureau data that shows that just 1.6 percent of retirees from that era moved across states lines in 2010. And those who did move are going all over the country, not necessarily moving to a retirement address in Florida. Many who did relocate have returned “home.” Staying close to the grandchildren, working at home or caring for someone else may factor into that trend. Compared to a generation ago, Florida claims only about half the share of out-of-state retirees.

Their debt levels are declining but still higher than ideal

After 2008, many households radically pulled back on spending and focused on reducing their overall debt. More than half of Boomers have similarly cut back on spending and reduced credit card debt–one-third even paid off their mortgages, according to a 2011 report by Bankers Life and Casualty’s Center for a Secure Retirement. So too did the Baby Boomers, many of whom having been cutting their credit card debt. A recent report from TransUnion found that nearly 1 in 3 Americans at least 60 years old has debt and the average balance is more than $60,000. That’s up sharply from 2005 when only 22% of seniors 60+ had debt and the average balance was $40,000. Unfortunately, older Americans are indeed living with more debt as they reach retirement. 

Many are supporting a grown child and elderly parent—at the same time

Pew Research says 15 percent of people in their 40s and 50s are paying to support a grown child and a parent at the same time. Over the next 5 years, 1 in 5 older workers between 45 and 74 say they may need to leave their jobs to care for an adult family member—with more women than men expected to face this dilemma, according to an AARP study released in January. College expenses are also taking a big bite of boomer budgets, as loans and scholarships cover only 31 percent education expenses according to Sallie Mae’s study, “How America Pays for College.” Nearly 40 percent of the total—is paid by mom and dad.

Health-wise, boomers are not in great shape

Even though they have a higher life expectancy, many Baby Boomers are in worse physical shape than their parents. Obesity, disability, blood pressure and chronic illness are more common. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey gathered data on those between the ages of 46 and 64 (average age: 54.1) during 2007 and 2010 and then compared them to their elders, who were previously surveyed at same age range, between 1988 and 1994. The results showed that only 13.2% of boomers rated their own health as “excellent,” compared with 32% of those in the older group. Boomers were more likely to have high blood pressure (43% vs. 36.4%), high cholesterol (73.5% vs. 33.8%) and diabetes (15.5% vs. 12%). A full 38.7% of boomers surveyed were obese, compared with 29.4% of their elders. Which means that while they will remain disproportionately in the labor force (compared to estimates of their withdrawal) at some point their health challenges will surely challenge Boomer productivity relative to younger generations anxious to advance

2 Trends Changing the Face of U.S. Jobs

You’ve heard it before!  We’re working the Perfect Labor Storm. But there are two trends impacting U.S. jobs that are often pushed aside. They involve working women and teens.

are you redy?What the future workforce will look like is clear as mud.  Demographic and job market surveys and studies produce contradictory and ambiguous results. But one thing remains sure. The workforce will look and function differently than any previous workforce.  Jobs won’t be tweaked but replaced. New jobs we never imagined are being created.

The only certainty we know is the workforce of today and tomorrow will be continuously evolving. And yet many companies react like they are spectators on the sidelines and not active participants.

A recent report from Career Builder, “The Changing Face of U.S. Jobs,” explores how an increasingly diverse population is affecting the composition of nearly 800 occupations by gender, age, and race/ethnicity.  Two of the most significant trends follow.

More women working but losing ground in high-pay jobs

There are more women in the workforce today than at any point in U.S. history:  4.9 million more female workers since 2001 compared to just 2.2 million additional male workers.

One reason for the increase is that women are less likely than they were in the past to leave the labor force for family or other reasons.  Men, on the other hand, are increasingly more likely to leave a job and opt not to look for another.

But as radio broadcaster Paul Harvey used to tell us, “and now for the rest of the story.”

Despite declining male labor participation since the 1970s, it is men that are gaining a greater share of jobs in 72 percent of all occupations.  While fewer men are working they are getting jobs, and thirty-seven percent of those jobs are in female-majority occupations. Women gained a greater share of employment in just 21 percent of occupations.

How is it women are losing ground in most occupations?  It’s because 76 percent of occupations that lost 10,000 jobs or more since 2001 were male-majority occupations.

Conversely, of the 32 occupations that gained 75,000 jobs or more, 69 percent were female-majority. The largest gains in the workforce for women occurred in a smaller number of occupations, many of them at the lower pay scales such cashiers and clerks.

That leads us to the next chapter in this unfolding story of how our workforce is evolving.

One controversial topic is gender pay gap. But same pay for the same work offers a limited solution to an insidious shift.

A socioeconomic event called “occupational segregation” is in place. Women have lost ground in 48 out of the 50 highest paying occupations including surgeons,  orthodontists, and psychiatrists. Men are gaining in higher paying jobs while women  are gaining mostly in low-paying, male-majority jobs.   Male-majority jobs pay significantly more per hour, on average, than female-majority jobs ($25.49 median hourly earnings for men vs. $20.85 for women).

That trend is perplexing because women now dominate college graduation numbers.  But the degrees that many women receive are just not in top-paying fields, such as STEM jobs. While total male participation and college graduation is down, men continue to lead in programs that typically lead to higher-paying jobs, such as computer science (83 percent of 2013 grads) and law (54 percent).

The aging workforce is felt in virtually all occupations.

In addition to gender shifts in our workforce, we have an increasingly aging workforce  and it is impacting younger generations, even teens.  Part-time and summer jobs like hosts/hostesses, food prep/serving, dishwashers, and ushers/ticket takers have disappeared.

Faced with a tumultuous job market, Millennials (now in their 20s and early 30s) continue to experience high unemployment and underemployment.   At the same time the age 55 and older workforce increased its share of employment in 99 percent of occupations!   There are now 8.3 million more older workers who were supposed to retire but didn’t.  The near-apocalyptic exodus of Baby Boomers from the workforce has not occurred as predicted creating a “gray ceiling.”

That’s good news for employers because the brain drain has been postponed, but it’s bad news for the three succeeding generations (Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z).

What’s my point? Waiting to see what happens is no longer an option.  Any company that expects to grow (or even survive) must recognize that the labor and job markets are evolving and how they recruit, hire, manage, and retain workers will need to evolve too.

Millennials’ Lack of Financial Literacy Costs Employers Too

Previously (in 9 Workplace Trends Worth Knowing,) Ira Wolfe wrote about the troubling statistic between recent graduates (Millennials) and their preparedness for professional environments. Specifically it was stated that four out of five CEOs worry about the availability of key skills, and that only 45 percent of young people believe they’re prepared to enter the workforce.

Millennial financial literacyFor the most part, these pieces of data are referring directly to young people’s often inadequate preparation for jobs and career growth, and this is something that CEOs and senior employees can help with to some extent. That is to say, programs can be implemented and Millennials can be coached so that they may catch up and succeed in their careers. However, the idea that young people aren’t always ready for the workforce doesn’t solely concern performance in the office. The same problem exists on a more personal level for many young employees in that many simply aren’t ready for the financial management that comes with securing a job and salary.

If that doesn’t sound like a problem that could negatively impact a workplace, think again. According to a 2012 survey conducted by Fidelity Investments, 78 percent of employers say “concerns over financial problems can have a negative impact on employee productivity.” That statistic comes on the heels of a number of troubling findings about the financial literacy of American employees in general, though it’s only natural that the problems are more concerning with younger employees.

So how can small business owners and managers help ensure a young employee’s financial future instead of unfortunate fate?

Well, the best solution may be to set up some sort of course or training to educate employees on the basic financial skill sets and understanding they’ll need to succeed. Here are a few ideas that can make for a good start.

  • Confirm the advantages of savings vs. paying off debts. One of the biggest challenges facing Millennials entering the job market these days is the mountain of student loan debt so many are buried beneath. Debt can be a constant source of stress, and in ways it becomes even trickier to deal with once you have income, because a new problem arises: how much money should you save, and how much should you allocate for paying off debts? S. News & World Report provided a very helpful worksheet for addressing these questions. It’s a helpful resource for young professionals struggling with all this.
  • Discuss the very basics of investment. For the young and even many more mature employees, investment can be confusing and complex. It may be a difficult concept to understand and implement especially for many young people coming right out of college and joining the workforce for the first time,. Providing a basic guide to how the market works and how investments are conducted can make a world of difference to a young employee. FXCM offers an outline of the New York Stock Exchange’s history and functionality that can be a terrific starting point while serving as the foundation for more specific financial strategy.
  • Provide a simplified explanation of how employment will affect the employee financially. For young employees not used to filling out forms with information on everything from health insurance to retirement funds, the whole process can be a bit overwhelming. Also, the forms themselves sometimes seem almost as if they’re designed to confuse. The fine print is necessary, but to help any employee – regardless of age – fully grasp and embrace financial commitments and benefits associated with a new job, providing a simplified explanation can be extraordinarily helpful. This allows the employee to understand where he or she stands with income and investment, so as to better address personal financial decisions.

In the end, a small business owner or CEO can only go so far in helping new and young employees to become more financially literate. Unfortunately, though, it’s a reality in much of America that Millennials are often unprepared not just for the workforce but for their own financial planning. Helping them to get off on the right foot in this regard can go a long way toward improving productivity and promoting ease of mind in the workplace.

Special thanks to Jenna Batten, a freelance writer based just outside of Baltimore, for submitting this post. She enjoys covering topics related to financial management and investing.