The week@work – Millennial myths, millennials@home and relocation stagnation

Apparently, Americans are less geographically mobile today than at any point since 1948. Interesting fact to contemplate as 38 million of us return from our adventures over the holiday weekend. It probably doesn’t help that for the first time, young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 are more likely to live at home, with their parents. Experts, not just parents, are voicing concerns about how this relocation stagnation is destroying what economists refer to as ‘dynamism’ in the job market.

This week@work we take a look back at the week’s stories of millennial myths and our dwindling pioneer spirit.

In April we reached a generational tipping point, when the number of folks between the ages of 18 and 34, aka millennials, overtook Americans between 51 and 69, the baby boomers, by 75.4 million to 74.9 million. And, as every move of the post WWII generation was observed and chronicled, so have we had this new majority under the microscope. It has been quite a lucrative vocation for the thousands of corporate consultants who advise executives on recruitment and retention.

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But what if they got it wrong? Farad Manjoo thinks the “collectively homogenous cliche” portrayed in the media is a far cry from reality and believes it’s time to break away from the stereotypes. Thank-you.

“If your management or marketing theories involve collapsing all millennials into a catchall anthropological category — as if you’re dealing with space aliens or some newly discovered aboriginal tribe that’s suddenly invaded modernity — you’re doing it wrong.

Kim Parker, director of social trends research at the Pew Research Center, said demographers have noted large differences in millennials: Compared to older cohorts, they tend to be more socially liberal when it comes to issues like gay marriage and marijuana use, they marry later in life, and they are less enamored of traditional religious and political institutions. Looking at these shifts over time “is a useful construct when you’re trying to analyze a whole population,” Ms. Parker said.

But these broad trends leave lots of room for individual differences that matter in the real world, and that are often papered over when we talk about millennials as a monolithic collective.

Considering that millennials are the most diverse generation — spanning many racial, ethnic and income categories — intragenerational differences are bound to play an important role when you’re talking about individual people. Though both are “millennials,” a young immigrant working three sharing-economy gigs is likely to look at the world very differently from a trust-fund baby who’s tending his Tumblr in Brooklyn. Yet only one of these stereotypes tends to make it into media accounts of millennials.”

The busy folks at Pew Research released additional millennial data this week, “For First Time in Modern Era, Living With Parents Edges Out Other Living Arrangements for 18- to 34-Year-Olds”.

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“It’s worth noting that the overall share of young adults living with their parents was not at a record high in 2014. This arrangement peaked around 1940, when about 35% of the nation’s 18- to 34-year-olds lived with mom and/or dad (compared with 32% in 2014). What has changed, instead, is the relative share adopting different ways of living in early adulthood, with the decline of romantic coupling pushing living at home to the top of a much less uniform list of living arrangements.”

Gillian B. White examined ‘The False Stereotypes About Millennials Who Live at Home’ for The Atlantic.

“…the Millennials who are most likely to wind up living with their relatives are those who come from already marginalized groups that are plagued with low employment, low incomes, and low prospects for moving up the economic ladder. Millennials who live at home are also more likely to be minorities, more likely to be unemployed, and less likely to have a college degree. Living at home is particularly understandable for those who started school and took out loans, but didn’t finish their bachelor’s degree. These Millennials shoulder the burden of student-loan debt without the added benefits of increased job prospects, which can make living with a parent the most viable option.

And while there may be comedic fodder in the idea of adult children trying to share space with their parents, staying at home for many Millennials and their family isn’t all that funny. For parents who are struggling to make ends meet, an extra mouth to feed or the inability to downsize to a smaller place can be truly burdensome. For many Millennials, moving out, even if they want to, could lead them to make financial decisions that would put them in an even more precarious place, and that’s precisely the opposite of what they, or the economy, need.”

Why will we travel 2,500 miles from home to attend our ‘first choice’ college, and yet resist relocation to a new urban environment for a job? Why do we spend a semester abroad in an internship or academic program and fail to accept a job offer fifty miles from home?

Has our pioneering spirit disappeared in the noise of descending helicopter parents, or are there more serious institutional prohibitions to career adventure?

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American Enterprise Institute president, and conservative author, Arthur C. Brooks offered advice on how to get America moving again, painting a grim picture of our current adventure deficit.

“Through census data, we know that Americans are less geographically mobile today than at any point since 1948. Other scholarship suggests that the decline stretches back further. This might help explain why our country is having such a hard time getting out of its national funk.

Mobility is more than just a metaphor for getting ahead. In America, it has been a solution to economic and social barriers. If you descended from immigrants, I’m betting your ancestors didn’t come to this country for the fine cuisine. More likely they came in search of the opportunity to work hard and get ahead.

Even for those already here, migration has long been seen as a key to self-improvement. As Horace Greeley so famously advised in 1865: “Go west, young man, and grow up with the country.”

Patricia Cohen followed up with a more in-depth review, ‘A Dearth of Pioneers’.

“Staying put can mean that workers are not moving to jobs where they would be more productive. At the same time, many are forgoing the raises and ascents on the career ladder that often come with a job switch. Fewer openings can also have a ripple effect, shrinking the bargaining power of workers in general, making it tougher to ask for a bump up in pay.

The declining churn in the labor market may surprise those who assumed that the era of lifelong employment capped by a gold watch had given way to serial job-hopping. But the reality is more complicated, said Abigail Wozniak, an economist at the University of Notre Dame and one of the authors of a new report on the subject. While it is true that fewer people have very long tenures at a single company, she said, that trend has been swamped by a countervailing one: People are not moving as much out of what used to be entry-level and temporary jobs.

One of the more intriguing findings was the role of declining social trust and what is known as social capital — the web of family, friends and professional contacts. For example, the proportion of people who agree with the statement, “Most people can be trusted,” has been shrinking for more than three decades. Researchers found that states with larger declines in social trust also had larger declines in labor market fluidity. The lack of trust may increase the cost of job-hunting and make both employees and employers more risk-averse.

As social trust diminishes, people may feel more comfortable sticking closer to home where the faces are familiar even if job opportunities are scarcer, researchers suggested.”

 

 

The week@work – work/life balance in Sweden & @Amazon, the truth about being an entrepreneur, & the value of an arts education

While the most powerful folks in the world were ranked in the annual Forbes list, the rest of the working class spent the week@work managing the challenges of work/life balance. Journalists covered a variety of topics influencing our lives @work ranging from the reality of being an entrepreneur to the value of arts education in translating tech to human practice. And there was good news from the U.S. Labor Department.

As U.S. organizations continue to experiment with innovative work/life balance policies to attract talent, Swedish companies have been implementing trials over the past 20 years.

Maddy Savage examined a six hour workday model being tested in Falun, Sweden.

“Jimmy Nilsson, who co-owns digital production company Background AB, launched the initiative in September as part of efforts to create a more productive workforce.

“It’s difficult to concentrate at work for eight hours, but with six hours you can be more focused and get things done more quickly,” he says.

His staff are at their desks between 8.30am and 11.30am, take a full hour off for lunch and then put in another three hours before heading back to their homes in the Swedish mountains.

They’re asked to stay away from social media in the office and leave any personal calls or emails until the end of the day. Salaries have not changed since the initiative started in September.

“We’re going to try it for nine months and see if it’s economical first of all, and secondly if it works for our customers and our staff,” Mr Nilsson says.”

In Sweden only 1% of employees work more than 50 hours a week. All are eligible for a minimum of 25 vacation days annually with 480 days of paid parental leave to split between a working couple. Contrast that to the new leave policy announced this week by Amazon.

Bloomberg Business reported “Amazon.com Inc. will give new fathers paid parental leave and extend paid maternity leave for mothers, as the online retailer seeks to enhance its benefits as a way to attract and retain talent.

Women who have a child can now take as much as 20 weeks of paid leave, up from eight weeks. New parents can take six weeks of paid parental leave. The Seattle-based company previously didn’t offer paternity leave. The new benefits apply to all births or adoptions on or after Oct. 1, according to a memo distributed to employees Monday.”

As the conversation on work/life balance continues in the U.S., with ‘band aid’ approaches to a significant cultural issue, our European counterparts are experiencing results in health and profitability. The next challenge: managing the stress of what to do with time away from work.

Entrepreneur and founder of IWearYourShirt.com, Jason Zook revealed ‘The Truth About Entrepreneurship’ for Inc.

“The problem with the majority of entrepreneurship is that it sucks and no one wants to just read about the struggles, the constant ups and downs, the risks that don’t pay off, the tiny lessons learned and the small victories that keep entrepreneurs going. Unfortunately, people don’t realize that’s what happens when you work for yourself or start your own company. They’re only thinking about becoming “the next Instagram” or what their incredibly lucrative exit strategy is going look like.”

He continues to share five ‘truths’, including “The truth about being an entrepreneur is that it’s downright hard and lots of people are going to doubt you along the way.”

It’s not just entrepreneurs. Anything that is worth pursuing is downright hard and people will doubt you along the way.

Wired Magazine published an interview with the new president of the Rhode Island School of Design, Rosanne Somerson. At a time when we are mesmerized by advances in technology, it’s the artists who translate innovation into human applications.

“One way our artists and designers help make sense of the tech world is by putting human beings first. They can design new things while really thinking about the user experience and the cultural impact that technology is instigating. A lot of initial research in tech is done by engineers and programmers who may not be as connected to how we perceive and experience things. Artists have a window into that that is highly developed.

Engineers are very gifted at what they do, but they don’t have this piece. I think in the future there will be these collaborations of the best IT and software engineers, along with people who can translate that into a meaningful human experience that is central to the concept as a whole, instead of an add-on. Those days are behind us. It’s really much more seminal than that.” 

The U.S. Labor Department released the latest jobs report on Friday. Journalist Don Lee analyzed the significance of the numbers for the Los Angeles Times.

“Hiring and wages surged last month as the unemployment rate dropped to 5%, a symbolic threshold with potential significance both for the economy and the 2016 election.

The latest jobless figure is the lowest since April 2008 and exactly half the rate from its peak in 2009 during the Great Recession. Moreover, the labor force expanded last month, unlike some previous months when the unemployment rate dropped because large numbers of people had stopped looking for work.

The combination of solid job growth, lower unemployment and higher wages comes at a crucial time politically as the country moves toward an election year. If historical patterns hold, economic conditions in the next nine months will be among the strongest factors in determining which party wins next November’s election.”

In other news this week@work, Forbes Magazine published its annual list of the ‘Most Powerful People’, Fast Company shared ‘What the Gender Pay Gap Looks Like by Industry’ and The New York Times reported on the latest study from the Pew Research Center in ‘Stressed, Tired, Rushed: Portrait of the Modern Family’.