Can the GOP Win Back Millennials Before 2020?

Millennials comprise the largest generation of eligible voters this fall. Nearly half of Millennials refuse to identify themselves as Republican or Democrat, but the majority of Millennials are planning to vote for Hillary Clinton on Nov. 8.

Will the GOP be able to recover the Millennial vote before 2020?

Representing 31 percent of the electorate (more than 69 million eligible voters), Millennials are more likely than older voters to favor strong communities, look for collaborative solutions and trust the government. Millennials willingly accept many social trends that some older voters may find threatening, and are more likely than older generations to be optimistic about America's long-term future.

The Millennial Vote: 2016 and 2020

The reality is that the Republican Party has lost the Millennial vote in 2016. “Millennials back Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by more than 3-1, a new USA TODAY/Rock the Vote Poll finds, but enthusiasm about voting is dipping as a sharply negative campaign enters its final weeks,” USA Today reported this week.

Recovery by 2020 is still possible, but only if the GOP changes the party narrative and resolves its current identity crisis. Some Republican leaders argue Millennials agree with the GOP on certain issues and an appeal more toward individualism and away from divisive social issues will bring Millennials back into the Republican fold.

However, some argue this change is more of a fundamental shift in values. A 2015 Pew report revealed Millennials who identify themselves as Republicans are less conservative than GOP members of older generations.

New Poll: Millennials' Tirade on Transparency

In last week’s blog post Millennials: Full Disclosure or Bust I reasoned that it was no coincidence that three high profile “data leakers” (Snowden, Manning, Swartz) were all Millennials. Now along comes Pew Research with a new poll working in conjunction with USA Today that clarifies once and for all the dramatic attitudinal differences between Millennials and older generations on the contentious topic of technology transparency.

“60% of Millennials think that Edward Snowden’s release of NSA classified data serves the public interest”

According to Pew, 60% of Millennials think that Edward Snowden’s release of NSA classified data serves the public interest, while less than a majority (46%) of older generations believe this. Among those over 65, only 36% are in agreement. Equally as interesting, Obama’s approval ratings have been nose-diving (64% approval in April vs. 54% in June) for the younger generation over the past couple of weeks, in part, I believe, because of this transparency issue. The IRS scandal and now the NSA leaks have been a wake-up call for Millennials that our leaders (especially those over 50) — whether Republicans or Democrats– are all the same when it comes to sequestering information intended for the public.

What’s a leader to do?

It is important to realize that when it comes to Millennials, their formative years with technology are something us older folks have never experienced. And this experience has shaped their attitudes– probably permanently. In other words, this is an attitude that they will not “grow out of.” This is not a “young person thing.” This is not something they will learn their way out of. This is for keeps.

For them, technology has always been free and always been transparent. Millennials don’t like double standards. They grew up with Barney, the community-minded purple dinosaur that put sharing and fairness at the top of his to-do list. If they are going to share all of their secrets (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), they expect everybody to share their secrets as well. Quid pro quo.

For Millennials, they do not have a problem with the government watching them, they just want the government to be honest about it, or at least have a sensible policy in place with checks and balances. It is not about privacy, it is about transparency. There is no expectation of privacy, but there is an expectation of transparency.

If you are in HR, I would recommend arranging some professionally-facilitated focus groups around this topic with your Millennial population. Find out what’s on their minds. It is better to hit off a potential problem before you get whacked like the U.S government did. And don’t expect the whacking to stop anytime soon. This is the tip of the iceberg.

My parting words of action: Don’t get whacked. Get smart about Millennials now.

Warren Wright

Millennials: Full Disclosure or Bust

The headlines are awash with emerging details on a 29-year old whistleblower named Edward Snowden, who disclosed classified secrets in order to expose the “surveillance state” of the U.S. government. In his role as an analyst for the National Security Agency (NSA), Snowden had access to classified material on a government program named PRISM that gave the government nearly unlimited access to every U.S. citizens’ emails and web-browsing activity.

Snowden, a Millennial, was well aware of the risks he was taking in exposing this top-secret NSA program. It is no coincidence that he and the soldier arrested for passing on classified material to Wikileaks’ Bradley Manning (25-years old), are both Millennials. Earlier this year, Aaron Swartz, age 26, committed suicide after felony charges relating to hacking into MIT’s computer system in order to download some academic journals.

Is it just a coincidence they are all Millennials? Not a chance. What do their actions tell us about Millennials in the workplace, and what do employers need to know about managing this new generation?

Here are 3 things employers should know about Millennials in the workplace:

1. Technology is a Millennial’s best friend, and best friends don’t cross you

Navigating the web, finding new apps, downloading new software programs—

Millennials have a kinship with technology that we have not seen in any previous generation. According to a recent survey by Generations consultancy, LifeCourse Associates, 93% of Millennials use social media for personal reasons, compared to 80% of GenXers and 61% of Boomers. As long as technology is Millennials’ best friend, there is an expectation that this friend, or those responsible for the technology, will not double-cross you.

When Sergy Brin and Larry Page started Google (both GenXers), they came up with a company slogan that they still use today: “Don’t Be Evil.” Little did they know, they created an expectation for an entire generation. Millennials trust technology, in part because technology has been an enabling partner with them from an early age—a source of entertainment, a way to stay close with friends and share things with them, even a way to help them with their school work. Their parents, whom they also trust, gave them their first smart phone in order to stay in touch. Technology is not just a lifeline for Millennials, it is their life.

Millennials don’t mind that you may be watching them, but they do mind if you are doing it secretly. Companies should be clear about their privacy laws, and they should be upfront that, yes, they do have the ability to access employees’ emails, but they are, in fact not evil, they only do it for good reasons.

2. Millennials’ Tolerance for Self-Disclosure is very low

When Baby Boomers were young, their biggest fear was oversight from big brother. George Orwell’s 1984 (written in 1949) was the guidebook for civic distrust of large institutions. Protecting privacy, particularly from the subversive forces of a centrally-controlled government or institution resonated with an entire generation. These days, Millennials gladly put cameras in their own room, and post the most intimate details of their daily activities for all to see. Yes, they will share almost anything, but they have an expectation that everyone else is sharing as well. The Millennial quid pro quo is… “I’ll be transparent, but I expect that you will be transparent too”. Yes, even in the case of the U.S. government, large institutions, or their employer. Our recent Millennial Minute on Salary Sharing speaks to new topic of interest or managers and HR directors: Millennials routinely sharing their information on salaries.

So when there is a perception that an institution is being nothing short of 100% transparent, Millennials will often push back. Lesson? Be transparent. Of course this does not go for the U.S intelligence community, but most employers will do good to go out of their way to be as transparent as possible about the decisions they make. Re-evaluate what you disclose to employees, and consider loosening the reins on information that does not entirely compromise your company’s mission. And if there is information that you cannot share, be explicit about why. For Millennials, honesty will trump secrecy all day long.

3. Save the world now, fat paycheck later…maybe

Millennials have very different priorities than their GenX counterparts. When GenXers were graduating from college in the 1980’s and 1990’s, a common route to a career was an MBA or law degree, then onto the highest paying job possible. Millennials are different. Far more college graduates today (and there are more of them) are going into professions in the non-profit world, and those that accept employment at for-profit companies prefer that the company practices long-term sustainable practices that are good for society. A 2011 Deloitte survey found Millennials who participated frequently in company-sponsored volunteer work are far more likely than their non-volunteering peers to rate their corporate culture as positive, to be proud to work for their company, to feel loyal, to recommend their company to a friend, and to be very satisfied with their employer and with the progression of their career.  Millennials are dedicated to corporate social responsibility, and not recognizing this dynamic can lead to Millennial disengagement and may even prompt them to challenge their employer on issues where they disagree.

What’s an employer to do? Employers need a way to scratch that itch that Millennials have. Make sure your social responsibility programs are not just ad-hoc after thoughts, but are integrated into the company’s core strategy and purpose. And allow Millennials to do social responsibility work on company time. This is worth the investment, as they will be much more likely to work longer hours on the project that you need them to do. Not only can you attract and retain  the most talented Millennials, but you will build a bond of trust that will pay big dividends in the future.

BOTTOM LINE: Get to know your Millennials, understand where they are coming from and why they think the way they do. Be sensitive to their hot spots, and start to work toward a more transparent, authentic operating style that clearly explains what your company believes and why they believe it.

– Warren Wright