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Are Tech Companies Avoiding the Age Diversity Issue?

Tech companies in general have a reputation for preferring young employees, whether or not they are really more tech savvy than older, experienced individuals. This is especially true in the Silicon Valley area culture.

When the San Francisco Chronicle requested employees' age data from the seven tech companies that have recently released diversity reports - Google, Pinterest, Salesforce, Twitter, Yahoo, Facebook and LinkedIn - as well as more than a dozen others, they either declined to provide the information or did not respond to the request.

Only Hewlett-Packard, shared information related to workforce age. A substantial number for a tech company, about 18%, are over 51 (Boomers); more than half are between 31 and 50 (mostly Gen Xers), and a 25% of HP’s U.S. employees are 30 or younger (Gen Y/Millennials).

"Age is one very important demographic that signals whether or not a company has an inclusive culture,” said Freada Kapor Klein of the Kapor Center for Social Impact. “ It's important alongside race, gender and sexual orientation."

Of 32 tech companies surveyed by PayScale last year, only six, which included long established companies IBM and Dell, had a workforce with a workforce median age of over 35. Only two companies the San Francisco Chronicle queried about median age, Autodesk (median 40) and Cisco (median 401/2), provided data.

The San Francisco Chronicle has recently requested diversity data from all the well known tech companies in Silicon Valley and received either sparse or no data from them. Very few responded they would release data and virtually none on age diversity.

We understand that data gathering requires some effort. But the lack of it or reluctance to release it gives the impression that the companies don’t regard having a diversity of ages in the workforce as important and valuable or they are protecting a culture of youth exclusivity. With authenticity and transparency rising in value and values today, what’s the real explanation?

BOOMERS STILL WANT TO WORK

As was expressed in 2004-5 surveys and again in 2014, Boomers want to keep working beyond traditional retirement age. Now there’s evidence they mean it. A recent study by Merrill Lynch in partnership with Age Wave of workers over age 50 revealed these findings:

  • 72% say their “retirement” will include some form of working. Obviously we need a new word to label this non-retirement.
  •  Twice as many respondents say the most important reason to work is for the mental stimulation (62%) rather than money (31%).
  • 80& of those working say they are doing it because they want to.
  • 83% say working helps keep them more youthful.
  • Why do they want to work? – Boomer continuing workers fall into 4 categories:

        -       33% are “caring contributors” desiring to give back and make a difference

        -       24% are “life balancers” who want jobs that allow them to keep valued social connections

        -       15% are workaholics – still driven to achieve and feeling in their prime

        -       28% are “earnest earners” who need the income and would not choose to be working otherwise.

  • 58% of those working have transitioned to a different line of work from their major career.
  • Their advice to others;

        -       Be open to trying something new (76%)

        -       To do something you really enjoy, be willing to earn less (73%)

So assume Boomers will be in the work world for some time. Understanding their motivations for working and what they are looking to contribute and get out of their work is valuable in getting the most productive outcomes for both solo work and multi-generational teams. A continuing challenge will be achieving effective cross-generational conversation and collaboration.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

WILL MORE FLEXIBILITY BE COMING FOR GEN Y AND GEN X WORKERS?

The work flexibility movement has taken steps backward since the recent recession took hold.  New research from the Families and Work Institute (FWI) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) surveyed 1051 employers on 18 different flextime options and considered which were increasing and decreasing in implementation and use. Overall in less formal ways or one-offs, flexibility has increased. For example, two-thirds of responding organizations allow occasional work from home, up from 50% in 2008, and 38% allow working from home regularly, up from 23% in 2008.

But when viewed by individual options, the findings are the reverse. Compared with 2008:

  • Job sharing is down from 29% to 18%
  • Sabbaticals decreased from 38% to 28%
  • Only 2% of U.S. employers offer any kind of voucher or subsidy for child care, down from 5%

The survey also looked at phased retirement, parental leave, ability to switch shifts, control over time of meal and bathroom breaks, health insurance coverage and other policies.

While workers’ stress has been increasing, employers during the recession and since have felt the need to reduce personnel and costs, which limits ability to be flexible.

So the question is whether as the labor market tightens and talent wars resume (if they do) the younger workers will see work/life flexibility on the upswing and benefit. Will more companies see the value of being perceived as a "best place to work"? Will workers finally experience work arrangements more in tune with their values and their ideas on how, where and when work should be done?

Please comment and add your thoughts.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

BEYOND MILLENNIAL

Last weekend I saw “Beyond Therapy,” a revival of a very funny early (1982) play by Tony Award winning playwright Christopher Durang. It’s about single, thirty-something big city dwellers struggling to make sense of their lives, their sexual orientations, trying to project their ideal selves, looking for love through newspaper dating ads (before match.com, etc.) and seeking help from therapists crazier than they are.

The playbill cites a December 1981 New York Magazine “Single in the City” issue that described the conditions causing the then young professionals’ angst: “the quest for fame and fortune, the sheer number of singles, the pressure to perform…the delaying of marriage for career.” References to the inability of young people to settle down and giving priority to work over marriage (or love), and statistics about educated professional single women outnumbering similar men sound eerily familiar to the Gen Y/Millennial world of today. We can even draw correlations to a down economy in the early 1980s– the second worst to recent times since the Great Depression.

Despite dramatic changes in technology, the status of women at work and demographics of the workforce in the last 30 years, it seems like déjà vu. Note that the characters in the play and described in the 1981 New York Magazine are Gen Xers and the younger Boomers.

This reinforces one reason Gen Xers (and some Boomers) are not generally sympathetic to Gen Yers. Having lived through similar experiences without having hovering parents, coaches and mentors, perhaps their attitude toward the younger generation is understandable: “We survived relying on ourselves.” “Why can’t they figure it out?” Why do they expect so much help?” Often they perceive the Gen Y/Millennials to be unfocused and uncommitted.

It’s worth contemplating…

Your thoughts? Please comment.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

WHAT WE LEARN FROM PERU’S MULTI-GENERATIONAL CULTURES

I’ve recently returned from a trip to Peru and learned so many fascinating things about Andean culture, philosophy and how they stay happy in their multi-generational living and working arrangements. I will relate a few tidbits here along with how the U.S. is actually adopting the practices of ancient and less advanced cultures.

Some learnings from the Incas and other Andean cultures of Peru:

  • The central philosophy is Love, Learning and Service.  Will the Boomers and Gen Y/Millennials increasingly adopt those values?
  • Those cultures are quite stress-free, attributed to their hard work, low desire for material goods beyond their definition of necessity and comfort.
  • Multiple generations live and work together by choice as well as necessity.
  • Women have very significant work roles.
  • A philosophy of “reciprocity” – today for you, tomorrow for me (which is the secret of successful networking, of course) pervades their lives.
  • Trial marriage is the custom in some Andean cultures. If it doesn’t work out, you can say “goodbye” and go on their way. No lawyers needed. However, if a child is produced during the trial marriage, the couple must marry.

Owing to demographics (age, ethnicity, immigrant cultures), economics and environmental conditions, the U.S. seems to be getting to be more like the Andean cultures.

  • Several studies reveal that Boomers are helping children and grandchildren financially. For example, a Merrill Lynch- Age Wave survey (2013) found that 62% of people age 50 plus helped family members in the last 5 years. And they’re helping with unpaid work too: grandparents care for 30% of pre-schoolers while the parents work.
  • Ken Dychtwald of Age Wave said, “Boomers want to be where the action is” rather than separating themselves in their living and working arrangements.
  • A couple living together either before marriage or with no committed intention of marriage has been growing for several decades.
  • Women’s work roles beyond domestic ones have been increasing.

Unfortunately, our stress levels have been increasing every year, and with our multitude of consumer goods, we are not getting happier.

Whether these trends will continue as Gen X ages and if the economy settles into a more positive pattern remains to be seen. And smart as we think we are in technological innovation, the Inca accomplishments of the 1500s are still ahead of us

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

WHY WORKPLACE CONFLICT HAS INCREASED

 A 2009 study in the Journal of Education for Business reported that managers spend about 25% of their time resolving conflicts. What explains this?

  • Compared with the past, more workplace decisions are being made in teams and groups in organizations that have become more complex, concluded a study by Morgan State University (Baltimore).
  • The opportunity for misunderstandings, confusion and tensions among co-workers arises from more diverse (including age diversity) and international workforces.
  • The time devoted to settling disputes among employees has doubled to 18% in 25 years (Journal of Education for Business study)

Unfortunately, many managers have had no training in conflict resolution, and it’s not a part of the curriculum at most business schools. That means there is a need for training managers in this skill or bringing in outside conflict resolution experts. Letting conflicts fester is an obvious deterrent to productivity and high morale and engagement.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

CONTROVERSY ON THE “SHARING ECONOMY’S” VALIDITY

After Tom Friedman wrote his Opinion piece, “Welcome to the “Sharing Economy” in the New York Times (July 21, 2013), there followed a flurry of negative comments about the example start-up he chose to illustrate, Airbnb, and the concept in general. The comments tended to be about the legality and ethics of the business and Friedman’s cheerleading about entrepreneurism to save the U.S. economy.

Since I wrote a more comprehensive blog on this concept in May after viewing a discussion led by Mario Bartiromo with several “sharing economy” entrepreneurs, I am posting the link to that earlier blog here.

 My blog post takes a cross-generational slant, of course J I find the concept and business model fascinating and promising.

Where do you stand on the concept and manifestations of the “shared economy”?  Do you find it valid, appealing, marketable, scalable? Please share your thoughts.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

ANOTHER GENERATIONAL TUG O’ WAR – OVER CITIES?

This week Maria Bartiromo’s “On the Money” (CNBC, 6/23/13) had a feature on where the Baby Boomers are moving in retirement or whatever passes for their version of the next phase of life with guest Richard Florida, co-founder of “The Atlantic Cities,” reporting on their study. The Boomers’ choices seem like great ones to me and not really surprising given their desire to stay part of the action and pursue continuous learning. The questions center around the impact on Gen Y/Millennials.

The study findings indicate a definite trend of Boomers moving to large cities (New York, San Francisco, and other urban areas such as Portland, Seattle and others). The other growing choice is college towns. Madison WI, Ithaca NY and Ann Arbor MI were cited.

In addition to intellectual stimulation, the Boomers making or contemplating moves are looking for good restaurants, good health care and to be near the action. They also want to be near where their adult children are located to maintain those ties and spend time with grandchildren. And their kids are attracted to big cities where things are happening.

The potential problem for the Gen Yers, who are not trying to get away from their parents in large numbers and also want to maintain close ties, is the economics of this trend. With the usually better economically endowed Boomers buying or renting housing in those desirable urban areas and depleting the supply, the younger generation can have a difficult time affording housing where they want to go for work and an active life.

So will this turn out to be another financial obstacle for the Gen Y/Millennials that threatens the future they seek? Or is it an opportunity for the generations living in densely populated areas with so many opportunities to work together on urban issues and create more manageable lives with less commuting and the need to own cars and possessions that are readily available to the public in these areas?

As not only a congenital optimist but also a former urban planner, I am hoping for the latter. Please comment with your thoughts.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

THE GENERATIONS COLLABORATE TO BUILD THE COLLABORATIVE ECONOMY

A few weeks ago, Maria Bartiromo did a “Seat at the Table” segment on her Sunday NBC program about the sharing or collaborative economy. The key concepts are Rent, Share and Trust. You rent your car or home or dresses or cook, etc. on a temporary basis.

The entrepreneurs behind the new businesses say this approach changes the concept of “consumption.” And they say they are in it for the long haul – that this is not a fad concept. It focuses on the actual user of a product rather than intermediaries. Though these businesses operate on technology, they are actually very personal. Person-to-person connections are facilitated by the technology. It is efficient for the new normal and sustainability because it uses excess capacity.

So you can rent a chef to come into your home to cook for your family or dinner party guests, rent expensive textbooks, or rent a designer dress you will only wear once anyway. These are examples of enabling luxury experiences for people who couldn’t live that way every day but can on a select, limited basis.

The businesses were started by young, “digital natives” – that is, Gen Y/Millennials or young Gen Xers – mostly under age 35. The venture capitalists supporting them are in their 40s and 50s – Gen Xers and younger end Baby Boomers. They are united in the excitement of these new concepts and services and their collaboration with the young entrepreneurs.

They have identified and latched onto some trends that have emerged, especially with the Millennials:

  • Decreased interest in ownership of cars, houses and other possessions other than electronics/technology
  • Desire to live in urban areas where the action is and have what they need and want nearby
  • Sustainable environment lifestyle
  • Innovate and love your work

I find this very exciting. Simplify. Save time and money. Avoid waste. Connect for personal needs and to fulfill dreams. I guess my Millennial tendencies are showing J

Phyllis Weiss Haserot       www.pdcounsel.com

GENERATIONAL DIFFERENCES GLOBALLY

I am often asked if the typical generational patterns and attributes we observe in the U.S. apply globally. In the past, the answer is mostly no, except for parts of Western Europe and Canada, and even there are differences and variations based on factors other than geography. In more recent years looking at the Gen Y/Millennial generation and those younger, there are many more similarities around the world since communication is instantaneous so we have access to the same news at about the same time and are influenced by the information on the Internet. But this converging applies mostly to the educated top of the social pyramid.

Here are some notable differences, with thanks to Andreas Fried from Universal Consensus.

• Boomers and the older half of Gen X in China had two very formidable influences: The great Chinese Famine in the early 1960s in which an estimated 36 million people died from starvation; and the Chinese Cultural Revolution from 1966-1976 in which China’s education system was brought to a virtual halt.

• The generations before the fall of communism in the former Soviet republics, including Russia had few similar influences to the Western nations. Now the young people are trying to catch up in several ways.

• The Gen Xers in Japan had quite a different experience from their American peers in the years they were entering the workplace. Japan in the late 1980s and early 1990s experienced a “Bubble Generation,” relatively untroubled and free spending.

• As for Gen Y/Millennials, Fried thinks the global convergence of that generation is occurring mostly at a “visible” level, such as with tech usage, popular culture and fashion more than with values and behavior, which I imagine probably are still greatly influenced by parental and religious attitudes and national or ethnic culture

. • Chinese Gen Ys are often referred to as “little emperors” born under the one-child policy of the ruling communist party. They may get a lot of attention, but they may have the huge burden of having to support two parents and four grandparents. Fried says Western Gen Yers are more worried about their own pensions or lack thereof than about their parents’ economic well-being or retirement.

Given world conflicts and the ever-speeding pace of change it will be interesting to see how much convergence or divergence of generations develops. More multi-national, multi-cultural and cross-generational conversation is a clear necessity.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

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