The Keynote at this week’s DMEC Annual Conference in San Francisco provided an interesting presentation about generational shifts and differences happening in the workplace today. The speaker, best selling author Lindsey Pollak, a seemingly disgruntled Gen-X’r (not really) and “nationally recognized Millennial workplace expert”, gave the audience an informative and entertaining look at the generational employment changes we currently face. What she told us will likely affect the workers’ compensation industry in two critical ways.

Personally, I was surprised to learn that as of May 11th of this year, millennials officially became the single biggest generational block in the US workforce. I’m not sure who is counting, or who for that matter made it official, but dammit, somebody somewhere did, so it must be true. Millennials will probably want a ribbon or something now.

Pollak spent a decent amount of time explaining what motivates millennials and how they view the world. One of the biggest surprises for me was how close they are to their parents compared to prior ingrate generations (like mine). That is probably because they are still living in their parents houses, and eating all their food. Seriously, though, Pollak made a compelling case about just how much respect this generation has for those that raised them, and how they seek out their parents advice. She spoke of “helicopter parents”, and asked the audience who amongst them had dealt with Millennial parents calling to negotiate a raise or performance review for their child. There was ample laughter when a number of the 700 people present raised their hands. She even mentioned that some of these parents review and edit their kids college papers, which was something I have some personal experience with. A number of years ago I had an employee who actually wrote his daughters college papers. It seems she was a “brilliant, just brilliant” child, but all of her teachers over the years had failed her by not teaching her to write. Personally I thought that was ridiculous. 

No one ever taught me how to write, and it ain’t never hurt me none. 

Anyhoo, Pollak, who has worked with the company LinkedIn, told us that over 80% of that company’s workforce is from the millennial generation. The company found, therefore, that “Bring Your Child To Work Day” was a veritable ghost town on the company campus. The response was to hold “Bring Your Parent To Work Day”, and for 3 years it has been a resounding success. Of course, since their parents drive them to the office it is probably an easy thing to accomplish. 

So what does this mean for the workers’ compensation industry? Well, for one, we need to find some millennials. We are all getting old and some of us are getting cranky. Someone is going to have to pick up the slack around here. If these millennials are so prevalent, we’d best try to round a few up. With the exception of some kid named Ben in California, they are not here yet. Hopefully Ben has some friends.

Beyond that, however, this is a development we seriously need to consider when managing the claim of a millennial injured on the job. Communication preferences will be different, with millennials much preferring text over telephone. I’ve written previously about how important it will be for us to involve the social network of an injured worker. Is it possible that we should try to communicate with the parents of a millennial whenever appropriate? I would suggest it is something we seriously consider.

Changes in demographics will require us to manage claims differently in the future. We’ve talked about ethnic and cultural differences. We’ve talked about an aging workforce. We have not, however, given much thought or time to the issue of generational differences of those who are following us. That will likely have as big an impact as the other areas we have discussed, and we should pay attention to it.

One thing will certainly become simpler and more straightforward with millennials. They are motivated to work if they find the job useful and challenging. Returning them to that job should be much easier; as long as we can get a note from their mother.  

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