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How millennials are changing the workforce, and what to do about it

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NEW ORLEANS — At the 2015 RIMS Conference & Exhibition, there is more than just property & casualty talk going on. In fact, the conference has branched out in recent years to include coverage of the medical industry, PPACA and demographics that are changing the workforce. And one educational session today focused on just that: millennials.

In “Millennials are changing your workforce: Are you adapting?” speakers Lester Morales and Jessica Ward tackled a topic that is top of mind to many employers today. 

Morales, chief growth officer, human capital practice at Willis, reminded those in attendance that millennials (those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s) will be the biggest part of an organization’s workforce in the not-too-distant future. And he’s right: by 2025, millennials will make up half of the U.S. workforce. 

But who are millennials? Morales broke it down into these fast facts:

  • They were the first generation that was born into technology; they don’t have to adapt to it.

  • They are not especially attached to religion or politics.

  • They are confident about their future.

  • They are the most highly educated generation, and also the generation with the most school debt (an average of $27,000 for a four-year degree.)

  • They are waiting longer to get married.

So what does all this mean for businesses everywhere? 

“Everyone that applies for a job at your organization has done extensive amounts of research not only on your organization, but on you and other people that work there,” Morales said, noting that millennials’ tech-savviness spills over into their internet investigations of possible future employers. 

Morales also noted that millennials need feedback, attention, coaching and collaboration at their place of employment. They also want a work/life balance; they want to be able to work from home from time to time. “They also want to be the boss, and they want to be the boss quickly,” Morales said.

But most important, Morales said, is that millennials want to work for an organization that they truly believe in; one that serves a purpose and has values. And sometimes, this is more important than pay.

“With this generation, it’s not all about the money,” Morales said. In addition to feeling as though they’re serving a purpose, millennials are also attracted to companies that offer career progression, training, benefits and flexible working arrangements.

Jessica Ward, benefits manager for DSW inc. (formerly Designer Shoe Warehouse), echoed Morales’ sentiments.

“Millennials are making us think differently,” Ward said. “We have 12,600 people in our company and 72 percent of them are millennials. Millennials have done some pretty cool things to organizations. They care. And they want the organization to care about them.”

Ward said that companies need to know what millennials are thinking, and act on that. To accomplish this, DSW sends out employee surveys frequently, and tries to better the company based on responses. For millennials, they care about company culture and, as Ward noted, they don’t leave a company because of a boss; they leave a company because they don’t like the culture. 

“We sell shoes, we don’t save lives,” Ward said. “But we are very passionate about what we do. In addition to selling shoes, we think it’s important to engage our associates and make them part of a larger purpose. This is what millennials lean towards.”

And with an average of 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day, it’s time insurance companies begin to think differently about how to attract the next — and the biggest — demographic. For soon, millennials will be running these organizations.

See also:

Wealthy millennials don’t see retirement as end of work

In 5 years, millennials will make up 50% of the workforce