The following post is from Mandy Berman, Bright Horizons’ Chief Administrative Officer and EVP.
Millennials are currently the largest generation in our workforce – a full third of the people who go to work every day.
They’re also emerging as a major portion of the sandwich generation.
A surprise finding from our recent survey was that 53% of Millennial employees caring for an adult relative (versus less than half of all employees) reported that their adult relative was living with them. That “sandwich” is more than a label. Having an elder relative at home means many of these young employees who already care for children have daily responsibilities for elders, too – perhaps managing personal care, medication, transportation, paperwork, appointments…or all of the above. It makes the likelihood of family and work conflicts – already common among people taking care of children – substantially greater.
This is notable for our workplaces for a number of very significant reasons.
- First, Millennials are not just the largest generation in our workforce; they’re our future leaders.
- Second, they’re exceptionally purpose and family driven. How work fits with family matters to them. In our survey, Millennials were twice as likely as the general pool of employees to leave a job because of work/life conflicts, and roughly a third more likely to have turned down a promotion.
- Third, there’s no doubt that their caregiving responsibilities are causing conflicts. In our study, 94% of sandwiched employees said they did.
Two Trains Headed for a Collision
These are two trains heading straight toward each other; a critical segment of workers with specific desires about work; and the same generation exceptionally burdened with multiple family responsibilities. And unless we find a way help ease those conflicts, the collision of these two trains will have a fundamental impact on our workplaces.
Flexibility will play a big part. So will tangible dependent benefits solutions. An employee who has no alternatives when care arrangements fall apart – and we know from our research that they often do – is going to start viewing work/family as perpetually in conflict. Providing alternatives (tangible arrangements in the form of back-up care to fill in those care gaps) will make an enormous difference in our ability to keep and engage these important employees.
We also have to be very mindful of how these new realities are affecting our people personally. A few of our clients were talking recently about adding a focus on mental health in the coming year. With all the stress created by care for families, you can see why.
These are issues not just for employees, but for all of us. Millennials are just starting to grow careers; with the aging of our population, they’re unusually tasked with elder responsibilities. And if they’re faced with pressures and they don’t have their organization’s support, they won’t have the ability to focus, to be present, and to really invest in their work. And that, in turn, will impact our abilities as organizations to grow talent pipelines, to see what our leadership looks like in the future, and so to be successful.
That’s not just an employee problem. That’s a business problem. But one we can, and must, do something about. And it will start with paying close attention to who our Millennial employees really are.