Learning from Our Parents, Millennials, and ECO


Lisa’s Memorial Day post on her father’s self-effacing leadership and that of General Eisenhower, later to become President Eisenhower, moved and informed me. Father’s Day is Sunday. As this annual honoring of fathers approaches, I’m reminded of how my Dad helped shaped me and my learning values.

My Dad was naturally curious throughout his life. Even yard sales where he would buy well-worn medical and nursing texts for fifty cents each became a source of knowledge. In his later years, he would have a stack of open textbooks next to his favorite TV-viewing recliner. He would play diagnostician and ask me questions about the results from my last blood panel. Because I was healthy, I seldom retained my normal-range numbers. But he would ask for printouts of his results and study them to identify trends. My father was an electrician yet was always learning something new about vascular, digestive, and cardio-systems.

After my Dad died in 2014, his geriatrician told me that my father had developed good insight into the human body’s functions.  She said one of his gifts to her that she passes onto her medical students in geriatric rotations is taking the time to really listen to and learn from patients about their physical and emotional health.

While I might overlook normal test results for myself, I try to be open to learning in other contexts. Work projects, blog posts, novels, Google searches, and opposing opinions are all opportunities to learn.

Lisa and I are benefiting from ECO, the Encore Connect Online learning network we launched six weeks ago. We have monthly exchanges with members online with video/audio conferencing and password-protected text discussions for conversation and resource sharing as needed in between monthly meetings. Issues that emerge in our spoken and written conversations help drive the content of our weekly emails to ECO members. We are on standby as learning concierges should ECO members need our assistance.

The four-month pilot scaffolds everyone’s learning about online collaborative tools and processes as well as topics identified by the group. Using LinkedIn more effectively and becoming familiar with e-resumes is of interest because most ECO members wish to keep earning income. As a result, our recent “Hollywood Project Model” and “The New Economy of Contingent Workers” blog posts intrigued ECO members. The posts affirmed the shift in the workforce from full-time, permanent roles to more short-term projects on contract, and explored whether the contingent economy is a good fit for baby boomers who want to stay in the workforce but not necessarily as 50+ hours-per-week employee-loyalists.

unretirement_2015-06-16_22-50-42ECO participants will investigate the changing workforce landscape in the next few weeks to see what it means for baby boomers approaching “unretirement.” I am looking at that, too, and the growth and impact of millennials in the workforce, another topic mentioned in ECO conversations.

At 35% of the workforce, millennials are starting to control hiring decisions. This means members of the baby boomlet created by the largest demographic cohort on record—boomers—get to decide whether to hire workers who are their parents’ age. I felt strange seeing this demographic shift in Mary Meeker’s just published 2015 Internet Trends report at Slideshare.

But being fascinated with gerontology—the process of how we age—I knew that new cohorts enter the workforce every 20-25 years. We boomers displaced the generation before us. Now it is happening to us … as our percentage in the workforce—31%–and our influence in the workforce decline. Some boomers are aging out involuntarily because of health issues.  Others are happily becoming eligible for Medicare and social security benefits and leaving traditional work obligations behind. But many of us want to keep our minds engaged, and continue earning money through different, yet meaningful and rewarding activities. I think boomers have more work options than our parents did as they approached 60 and 70 years of age. What do you think? What should we do to stay in the workforce on terms that satisfy both our and our employers’ needs?

Some answers may be found in Meeker’s Slideshare for KPCB.  It is a bonanza of valuable information drawn from reliable sources including the recent “Freelancing in America” report by Freelancers Union and the “Millennials at Work: Reshaping the Workforce” global survey by Price Waterhouse Coopers in 2011. The Slideshare raises many issues from the digital technologies we use, how we work, and workforce factors that affect how we use the internet to find employment and other income earning possibilities. Mobile connections to the internet are having a huge impact on how we work, where we work, and with whom we work.

Additionally, the summary slide below on the expectations of millennials speaks to their influence on the workplace. Millennials have the highest percentage of any age group for freelancing—working in short-term, alternative work arrangements, sometimes in addition to their full-time employment. Millennials are also more likely than older generations to use their personal technologies and dip into their bank accounts to purchase applications to complete work projects.

2015 Internet Trends Slideshare, http://www.slideshare.net/kleinerperkins/internet-trends-v1

2015 Internet Trends Slideshare, http://www.slideshare.net/kleinerperkins/internet-trends-v1

Millennials have a natural “affinity with the digital world. They have grown up with broadband, smartphones, laptops, and social media being the norm and expect instant access to information. This is the first generation to enter the workplace with a better grasp of a key business tool than more senior workers.”   (Millennials at Work survey)

Millennials are negotiating transactional online platforms such as Etsy, Uber, and Upwork to sell their products and services, purchase products and services, and respond to employers seeking certain skill-sets. Millennials don’t have the work savvy of their parents but their parents don’t necessarily have their children’s ease with the internet and digital technologies.

change_Clay Shirky_2015-06-17_0-38-05

Clay Shirky’s assessment in Sylvia Tolisano’s Digital Fluency presentation at http://www.slideshare.net/langwitches/digital-fluency

And that’s where boomers are, trying to see how and where we fit when the workplace as we have known it is being upended by the global reach of the internet among other factors. Sylvia Tolisano quotes Clay Shirky to express the need for digital fluency for boomers, millennials, and the next generation entering the workforce.  Are you ready? What do you need to do?  Where do you need help?


Featured photo of cattails from bigfoto.com

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