06/29/2016 10:17 EDT | Updated 06/29/2016 10:59 EDT

Will Millennials Be The Last Generation To Receive Benefits?

Millennials are defined as that generation that came to young adulthood around 2000, thus the term. I wonder if millennials will be the last generation to receive benefits as we know them today. What does the future hold? Let's find out.

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Portrait of a young man in severe pain

Millennials are defined as that generation that came to young adulthood around 2000, thus the term. I wonder if millennials will be the last generation to receive benefits as we know them today.

Based on all the work I have done for and with my PROMOTE! book I keep coming back to the requirement (not just a recommendation or "best practice" anymore) that all workers, at all levels must learn to professionally and appropriately promote themselves on the job as often as is reasonably possible. Hold that thought while I take a 180° here to shape this discussion. I'll be back to this point in a moment.

Pre-World War II

A bit of history for you. Prior to WWII there was virtually no such thing as benefits. An employee went to work and was paid for his* efforts in cash only. He put money away in a savings account for retirement, paid for his own insurance (if he elected to purchase any) and his family's doctor bills and, like the squirrel preparing for winter, he did the same: He prepared for the time when he would not be able to work. The nuclear family at this time was also much stronger so family as a whole would take up much of the responsibility of caring for their elders.

Post World War II

Immediately following the war, North America saw one of the greatest economic explosions of all time. Levittown, NY happened; every home wanted and acquired washers and refrigerators and-the major miracle of industry at that time-an automobile in every garage. This in turn created a change in how employees were hired and retained. And that change was benefits.

Due to the casualties of war there just weren't enough men available to manufacture things-especially automobiles. So the auto manufacturers raided each others employees and enticed them to make the move with a new 'carrot' known as benefits. And the competition to offer more and better took off. And we all saw 'that it was good.' Right?


Well, from my observation working with job seekers I'm seeing more and more and more of them moving into contract work. I know-and clearly understand-why companies are making the benefits-pendulum swing back towards the pre-WWII model. The fact is benefits are expensive. VERY expensive. Once offered and agreed to they are a legal obligation to the employer that linger for a long time-especially as we grow older as a population.

Not too many years ago the Detroit auto companies managed to move the management of their workers benefits to the unions. I was astonished that the unions would want to take on this responsibility. And I know that the day of the signing of those agreements the companies were overjoyed at NOT having to deal with the day-to-day, year-in/year-out managing of those retirement benefits. This event was a bell weather moment in the beginning of The Swing.

Back to Millennials

What I see happening now is that core employees, that is, those employees who a company cannot operate without, will continue to receive benefits. But note that I said CORE in that last sentence. I see a time when virtually all support positions will be contract (Or worse, replaced by a camera, video and software. Watch to see what happens to your local drive-up bank teller in just a very few years.)

Workers will be paid more per hour and receive little to no benefits meaning that it will be incumbent for them to obtain their own health insurance (or not), their own dental and vision insurance (or not) and plan for their retirement out of their own pocket (or not!) I think Millennials need to think about and prepare for this eventuality now. If I'm wrong and none of this comes to pass just think of the retirement party you will be able to afford!

And Finally, Back to PROMOTE!

So what does all of this have to with my PROMOTE! book? In that book I propose that every individual, no matter their age or position, continue to professionally promote themselves. At the end of the day you want to be a part of that CORE group. The only way this is going to happen is to not only tell them what you are doing but in order to have the impact you seek you have to be able to quantify each and every single accomplishment in dollars saved or dollars earned. THAT is how you become a permanent member of the CORE.

I would really like to get your opinion on benefits and the future of work as we know it. Please join the conversation.

As always, I wish you great success!

*I"m using the male gender here as women, at this time (the 1940's and prior), were expected to be home in the kitchen...