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What’s Up with the Attitude of Millennials These Days?

Confusion Millennial over his futureThere are few places I go that I don’t hear comments about the attitudes of Millennials. It is also the most common question I hear from clients these days.  It is so common in fact that it prompted an interview with the senior editor of Chief Learning Office magazine a few weeks ago. The article was just published last week. The editor asked me about what makes each generation different, if Baby Boomers felt the same way when they were young or have times changed, what Millennials want, how the generations respond to technology and more.

So let me give you a sneak peek into the interview.

Here’s a hard cold fact and yet a very simple but critical premise: the attitudes of each generation are different, not good or bad. (Yes, individuals in each generation have good and bad attitudes but collectively they just see the world a bit differently than their predecessors and successors.)

Without a doubt each older generation has viewed its younger successor as brash and uppity. Younger generations always look upward and see gray and staunchy.

But despite this loud roar of near-apocalyptic differences in attitudes between generations cited by the media, research is on the fence whether these differences are based on one generation’s perspective defined by events or concerns expressed by all generations at similar states in life and career.

Regardless of the cause, the notion that one generation’s attitude is good or bad is just bad business. Yes, there are individuals in each generation that have good and bad attitudes about work. But bad attitudes don’t infect an entire generation of tens of millions of people. In fact, I’m often embarrassed by the negative and disparaging attitudes of many of my peers (baby boomers) toward work and excited by the holistic and fresh outlook that millennials offer.

There is no question that historical events such as Pearl Harbor, landing on the Moon, the death of key leaders and great recessions imprint indelible messages in the minds of young people. These messages shape the lives of these young adults as they enter adulthood. They influence how they see the world and how the world sees them. But they don’t create an entire generation with a single universal attitude. We’re talking about millions of humans, not robots. Society and the marketplace that responds to these life-changing events likely have a greater impact on the life and times of each generation than the events themselves. For example, the Internet surely had a more pervasive and permanent effect on how a generation of young people will live and work as adults than the terrorist attack on 9/11.

Want to read more about the Millennials, technology, work and what companies need to do to recruit, hire, and retain the generation that will soon make up 75 percent of the workforce?Click here.

Download a free chapter about What You Need to Know About the Millennial Generation  from Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization

U.S. Unemployment Stats: Fantasy vs. Reality

The December 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Unemployment Report showed that only 74,000 people found new jobs. Of these, 31,000 were part-time. Yet, the U.S. unemployment rate fell from 7 to 6.7 percent. You ask, how can this happen?

The answer lies in the fact that about 500,000 Americans quit looking for a job. They removed themselves from the BLS unemployment rate calculations.

What is going on? The U.S. stock market has been booming. Interest rates remain very low. Federal Reserve economists and Wall Street pundits keep telling us that the recession is over. If you don’t have a job, however, this seems pure fantasy. The share of the U.S. population available to work is now at a 35 year low – a 62.8 percent labor participation rate. This is the same rate as in 1978. It includes all people who are not infirm, in the military, or locked up somewhere. These workers are either employed or still seeking a job today.

At the same time those workers not in the labor force, or who have given up looking, rose in December 2013 by 525,000 persons to 91.8 million! If this increase had been zero, the U.S. unemployment rate would have remained unchanged at 7 percent! Those BLS numbers don’t lie, they just distort reality.

There are those economists and pundits who claim that the swelling number of Americans who have dropped out of the labor force is due to the massive number of baby boomer retirements and more young people going to school. These claims lack credible proof.

A comparison of BLS labor participation rates from 1999 to 2013 for different age ranges shows a dramatic workplace shift is underway. There has been a major decline in workers under 45, while there has been a significant increase in the percent of people over 60 who are at work.

U.S. workers aged 30 to 59, the prime age group for employment, comprise 50 percent of the potential workforce. They account for most of the decline in the U.S. labor pool since 2007 and 75 percent of the decline for 2013. If you zero in on workers aged 45 to 54, their labor participation rate is 79.2 percent, the lowest since 1988! “It just keeps dropping and dropping,” states Julia Coronado, chief U.S. economist at BNP Paribas. “It’s depressing, as it’s not just older workers retiring.”

At the end of 2007, when the recession began, 66 percent of Americans were at work. To return to that level in 2014, 8 million Americans would have to be added to the workforce. If this occurred, the current U.S. unemployment rate would rise to 11.2 percent!

All of the above suggests that the pool of potential U.S. workers is substantially higher than the BLS unemployment rate indicates. What is keeping these workers on the sidelines?  It’s clear to me: A growing labor mismatch between vacant jobs and the skills of unemployed American workers. It’s a structural unemployment problem has existed for the past decade, and it is now becoming more critical.

An Accenture 2013 Skills and Employment Trends Survey of 400 U.S. executives found that 46 percent are concerned that they will not be able to find workers with the needed skills. A 2014 McKinsey survey of business and education providers in the European Union found that about a third reported difficulties finding workers with the right skills.

Clearly the U.S. education to employment pipeline is broken. There are approximately 7.2 million vacant jobs in the United States that currently can’t be filled. My latest published research on the skills-jobs mismatch, Future Jobs: Solving the Employment and Skills Crisis (Praeger, 2013), estimates that the lack of workers with appropriate skills for a 21st-century workforce in the United States, and in nations worldwide, could result in 14 to 25 million vacant U.S. jobs by 2020. Future Jobs, however, does point to reform efforts underway in regions of the United States, as well as overseas, that have the potential to substantially alter this dire scenario, if they are rapidly brought to scale.

The realities of this skills-jobs collapse will trigger a major economic crisis for many Americans. As the pain increases, we can expect a rising public demand for meaningful action by business and government at the regional and state levels to fix the jobs and skills disconnect, instead of the current fantasy that the U.S. unemployment problem is ameliorating.


Edward E. Gordon is an internationally recognized researcher, author, speaker, and consultant on the future of America’s and the world’s workforces. His previous books include: Winning the Global Talent Showdown, The 2010 Meltdown: Solving the Employment and Skills Crisis, Skill Wars, and FutureWork. Ed can be contacted at 760.346.6364 or

Working From Home: Is it the future?

Working From Home -- Is It The Future? by – Connecting Great Companies with Global Talent

10 Facts About Aging and Baby Boomers You Should Know

1. January 1, 2011 – The very first Baby Boomers turned 65. social security for baby boomers

2.  For the next 15 years, every day more than 10,000 Baby Boomers will reach the age of 65.

3.  Baby boomers, defined as persons born between 1946 and 1964, number 76.4 million in 2012 and account for about one-quarter of the population.

4. December 31, 2029 – The last of the boomers will turn 65. The 65+ population segment is projected to double to 71.5 million by 2030 and grow to 86.7 million by 2050.

5. Currently, just 13% of Americans are ages 65 and older. The age-65-and-older population grew 18 percent between 2000 and 2011 to 41.4 million senior citizens.

6. The population age 65 and older is expected to more than double between 2012 and 2060, from 43.1 million to 92.0 million. In 2060, when the youngest of them would be 96 years old, they are projected to number around 2.4 million and represent 0.6 percent of the total population.

7. The older population (65 and older) would represent just over one in five U.S. residents by the end of the period, up from one in seven today.

8. The percentage of the U.S. population that is 60-to-64 will increase from 5.4% in 2010 to 6.2% in 2020, while the population aged 65 to 74 will grow from 6.9% to 9.5%.

9. In 2010, each retiree’s Social Security benefit is paid for by approximately 3.3 U.S. workers. By 2025, it is projected that there will be approximately two U.S. workers for each retiree.

10. By 2015 Generation Y will outnumber Baby Boomers in the workforce. By 2020, Generation Y will account for 45% of all U.S. workers. Gen X and Gen Y will make up 65% of our workforce by 2020.

Source: Department of Health and Human Services,, and Administration on Aging, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Success Performance Solutions President Forecasts “Worsening Perfect Labor Storm”

Small Business Hiring Slow – Time to Worry?

It’s well known that job growth has been lacking in this economic recovery. One reason for the disappointment is that small businesses aren’t adding workers like they used to.

Small firms account for about half of GDP and employ about half the workforce. Small business has led us out of recent recessions and has been the driver of our economy for the past few decades.  But Goldman Sachs economists recently found small firms (defined as businesses employing less than 1-49 workers) have indeed underperformed medium and large companies.

These trends also contrast with the last business cycle of the early 2000s. Small firms barely lost any jobs in the 2001 recession and then outpaced medium and large firms in the expansion.

Goldman identified several reasons unique to small-company hiring.

First, small firms account for a disproportionately large share of construction jobs and those payrolls collapsed during the Great Recession.

Second, labor markets have seen a structural shift toward large company jobs. For instance, Goldman notes large companies’ share of retail employment has jumped 16 percentage points from the early 1990s to 64% today. Many mom-and-pop stores can’t compete against big box retailers.

Finally, large-business employment has tended to be more sensitive to the business cycle. When the U.S. recovery strengthens, big firms benefit a bit more.

The lag in small business hiring is also confirmed by ADP private sector numbers. Payrolls at private firms with less than 50 employees have increased 4.7% since the end of the recession through August, medium-size firms (50-499 employees) are up 6.1% and large firms (more than 1,000 workers) have increased payrolls by 7.4%.

New Infographic: A (High School) Dropout Nation

While U.S. high school graduation rates are rising, much improvement has to be made.

Read more about…

8 Stats and Facts about the high school dropouts.

How low graduation rates affect the skill shortage.

 A Dropout Nation

Business Stories You Might Have Missed – Week of April 15, 2013

Top hedge fund manager earns more than $1 Million per hour!

The top 10 hedge funds managers make as much as 196,000 registered nurses or 250,000 entry level teachers. They make 50 to 100 times more than our top athletes, movie stars, CEOs, lawyers, writers, doctors and celebrities. The top hedge manager, David Tepper, earned $1,057,692 an HOUR in 2012 — that’s as much as the average American family makes in 21 years!

Read more.


Number of people with dementia to double

Dementia affects a large and growing number of older adults in the United States. The estimated prevalence of dementia among persons older than 70 years of age in the United States in 2010 was 14.7%. The monetary cost of dementia in the United States ranges from $157 billion to $215 billion annually, making the disease more costly to the nation than either heart disease or cancer.Medicare paid approximately $11 billion of this cost. The costs and the number of people with dementia will more than double within 30 years.

Read more.



Now get your head out of the gutter. It’s not what you’re thinking. WTF? is the question posed by Brian Solis in his new book, What’s the Future of Business? While previewing his video and Slideshare presentation, I discovered these nuggets:

  • Over 40 percent of the companies that were at the top of the Fortune 500 in 200 were no longer there in 2010.
  • Gen Y will form 75 percent of the work by 2025 and are actively shaping corporate culture and expectations. Only 11 percent define having a lot of money as a definition of success.
  • Only 7 percent of Gen Y work for a Fortune 500 company. Start-ups dominate the workforce for this demographic.

Read more.


Finally – I love this quote.

“in the end, complacency is a symptom of mediocrity and mediocrity is the result of a leadership organization that chooses not to lead, but instead, to manager how to be better or more efficient around “what is” and not “what should be” or “what’s next.” Brian Solis


A Shortage of ICD-10 Workers Threatens HealthCare Bottom Lines

While changes are transforming almost every industry, perhaps no individual profession will be impacted with the next few years as much as healthcare. And within that industry, no single job will be revolutionized as much as the medical billing coder. The looming transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10 will alter the profession and those directly responsible for accurate and prompt reimbursement for services.

(Note: ICD is International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, a medical classification list by the World Health Organization (WHO). It is used by 25 countries to report medical diagnoses and inpatient procedures. Accurate and prompt patient reimbursement by both governmental agencies and insurance companies rely on correct coding by hospitals and physicians offices. Delays in coding may result in inaccurate payments, higher accounts receivable, and more out-of-pocket expenses by patients or write offs by offices and hospitals.)

It is estimated that the complexity of the work and scope of managing the addition of more than 56,000 codes, a 5+ times increase, will result in productivity drops of 50 percent or more.  As a result only half the work will get done or twice as many coders will need to be hired.  And there lies the first of several problems facing hospitals and physician offices.

A lot of coders currently have just basic medical knowledge. That isn’t going to be enough. It is estimated that half of the coders today do not have enough education to make it. This alone will change education requirements and, subsequently, the type of individual capable of the work and attracted to a career in coding. ICD-10 requires a higher level of clinical knowledge than many Certified Professional Coders (CPC) have. If they haven’t prepared for that, they will be left behind. It will be a completely different world in coding going forward.

The magnitude of the change is significant. ICD-10 is not merely a modification of ICD-9 – it’s a disruptive change that relies much more on tacit knowledge than explicit information, something largely ignored by administrators and human resources.

What coders see no longer results in the conclusions you want – coding is no longer plug and play. This creates a critical and dangerous environment since efficient and accurate ICD-10 is required if the medical community wants to get reimbursed what they are due in a timely manner.

To understand the difference between just explicit information (know-that) and implicit knowledge (know-what and know-why), the iceberg metaphor is often used. Above the water lies the information that we know and can articulate without prompting. It is visible, readily available and shared by whoever wants it.  It is simply explicit. Explicit knowledge is codified and easily transferable in systematic methods, such as rules and procedures.

You can ask a know-that question to just about anyone in a job and they can likely regurgitate it back even if it doesn’t have anything to do with their job. You can compare explicit knowledge activity to snorkeling verses scuba diving.  Snorkeling is relatively easy and safe and fun.  Most training programs and just plain old writing-down-what-you-do fits into this level of knowledge.

Most of us can articulate explicit knowledge, what we call knowledge at this surface level, if we are prompted. This is what most assessments for certification and skill proficiency evaluate.

Below the waterline lies tacit knowledge, or implicit knowledge. Employees floating below the surface are often the organization’s subject matter experts.  They hold the technical and some company and industry knowledge that is revealed when they are asked. Few employees actually live in this space. And this is where things begin to get a bit more complicated.  Knowledge near the water surface is still fairly easy to work with.

As outsiders or new employees enter an organization, they seek out these “snorkelers” to find out how to get things done. The problem with the ICD-10 transition is that there are few scuba divers and lots of snorkelers. And transforming knowledge from divers to snorkelers diverts the skilled from getting their jobs done at a time when productivity is already diminished by the massive requirements of ICD-10.

Tacit knowledge on the other hand is non-verbalized and intuitive. It is deeply rooted in an individual’s actions and experiences. Experts often arrive at problem diagnoses and solutions rapidly and intuitively without being able to report how they attained the result (tacit knowledge). 

As we dive deeper into the water, the nature of this tacit knowledge changes. The view becomes murkier. It is harder to see ahead and get a handle on things.   Like the iceberg, the deeper you go the knowledge becomes more complex and vast. At these levels, we begin to see all the different reasons why our tacit knowledge is unspoken. 

Tacit knowledge rarely if ever is recorded.  It often lies deep inside the minds of the employee.  It is difficult if not impossible to capture. It’s not as easy as saying “Let’s find out what we know and then document it.”

That poses a gargantuan problem. Tacit knowledge is what we know and believe but cannot articulate, often because it has become so ingrained in our minds that we cannot separate it from who we are. That means if skilled workers leave, they take institutional knowledge with them along with the skills to do the job.

The timing for  ICD-10 couldn’t be worse for healthcare. Complex, new problems need tacit knowledge to solve them but few people have the experience. A less experienced individual (which is nearly every coder at this point since ICD-10 is so new) have to rely on explicit knowledge.  But because a whole new pool of rookie coders will be needed to complement the existing shrinking pool of skilled codes, most coders will have to rely on what they know in a job that requires application and critical thinking skills to bridge the gap between data and conclusions.

Transferring essential knowledge to a horde of snorkelers (and likely even inexperienced swimmers) quickly seems to be an impossible task. This tacit knowledge however is exactly the knowledge that organizations need to capture. It is the competitive advantage of an organization, held by a few people who make the connections between all the content that differentiates your organization from the competition.

The bottom line is that essential and valued coder skills will be needed for managing, interpreting, validating, transforming, communicating and acting on ambiguous and fast changing information. And those skills are and will be at a premium.

Is Yahoo’s Ban on Telecommuting Brilliant or Blunder?

Yahoo’s recent decision to ban telecommuting has created quite a buzz.  Reactions have ranged from outrage to praise.  You could almost hear the huge sigh of relief expelled from managers worldwide who hate the concept of workers working from home and can’t give up the anachronistic style of management by walking around.  

Time will only tell if Marissa Mayer’s decision will lead to her induction into the CEO Hall of Fame or Den of Shame. (Remember former CEO “Chainsaw” Al Dunlap?) But as an outsider looking in, the decision is rife with pitfalls and consequences and lots of bad examples of how to communicate with your employees.

Like many other observers, I don’t have inside information to the discussions and strategies leading up to this decision. All I get is what I read in the news and on blogs. In that vein, let me first say that I believe the announcement was likely taken out of context and subsequent responses were exaggerated, often to fit personal agendas. Regardless, nearly everyone agrees that the impact at Yahoo will be significant. Whether that impact is good or bad remains to be seen.

Now let me move on to my take on this decision.

First and foremost and most curiously, if face-to-face interaction is so valuable and productive, why was a memo sent? Why wasn’t a meeting of managers called to announce, explain, and discuss the decision?  Why weren’t the people most affected by the decision contacted prior to any memo being circulated, confidential or not?

While creativity may be enhanced by face-to-face collaboration, the potential loss of key talent and acquisition of new talent comfortable with going to work each day may overwhelm any advantages gained by ending telecommuting.  Even if the strategy turns out to be the right one, the tone of the message was harsh and cold.  It read like a mandate, not a hard-to-swallow but necessary “Win One for the Gipper” rally the troops speech.

The decision was also interesting considering the new-Mom status of CEO Mayer. With 50 percent of the workforce now women, many working Moms and parent caregivers depend upon flexible, more compassionate, less autocratic leadership styles and work environments.  Many of the most successful recruitment and retention efforts succeed based on the flexibility that telecommuting offers.

Yahoo recruits mostly college grads.  Well over 60 percent of college students are female. It is even higher in many graduate programs.  This decision paints Yahoo as a non-worker-friendly, non-family, non-work-life-balance workplace. That image excludes an even larger demographic necessary for recruitment. I assume that message wasn’t the intent and consideration for the impact on women, young workers, and college grads was given adequate scrutiny. But if it was, the message certainly wasn’t communicated clearly.

In coming weeks and months, it will be interesting to watch overall employee engagement. Will incumbent employees react positively to this definitive decision or view this dramatic change in policy as a last act of desperation from the captain of a singing ship? Some observers have even intimated that voluntary downsizing – employees leaving the company in response to the policy – might be behind the decision.  This change could very well cause employees to quit before they are terminated, eliminating expensive severance packages and prolonged employment of disgruntled employees.

 I’m also curious to know what type of innovative breakthrough Mayer is looking for that might be gained by forcing employees to “work side-by-side.”  Few could argue with the comments by Yahoo EVP of People and Development Jackie Reses that “some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.” If occupying the same space is a requirement for collaboration, does that mean that Yahoo will be consolidating their 20+ global offices in California and requiring all its employees to travel regularly or move closer?

Yahoo needs a big bodacious breakthrough and maybe on-site collaboration is the right catalyst to jumpstart innovation.   But employee performance and productivity must be aligned with a strategy.  What is Yahoo’s strategy? Better yet, what is its purpose, its unique proposition?  Who is Yahoo and what does it do?  If its goal is to be a better Google, Yahoo will lose. With three CEOs in a twelve month period, you have to ask – what is its business model?  Does it even have one? You can’t expect employees to meet expectations if the only goal is inflating its stock price. If Mayer is looking for its workers to come up with the next great idea to save the company, banning telecommuting has as much chance of succeeding as rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Reses’ memo continues, “speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”  Maybe that’s true in some roles.  But imposing this policy for all types of work just doesn’t make good business sense. It also flies in the face of recent studies on the value of telecommuting. In 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics conducted a survey concluding that telecommuting has “become instrumental in the general expansion of work hours, facilitating workers needs for additional work time beyond the standard workweek, and/or the ability of employers to increase or intensify work demands on their salaried employees.”

While creativity and innovation may flourish when engineers and marketing people interact face-to-face, a no-telecommuting policy may have a negative impact on more functional jobs like finance and accounting. It might reduce productivity and performance by lowering morale and limiting the pool of talent that the company attracts and retains.

Yahoo’s decision to ban telecommuting offers many valuable lessons for companies considering a significant policy change.  What do you feel are the most valuable take-aways for CEOs and HR when making significant employee policy changes?