Strategic HR: Demographics Alert

For many of you this may have gone unnoticed. For some of you your thought may have been “that is interesting” or “I am not surprised.” If you are a strategic HR person your thought should have been “What impact will this have on our employee base? How will this impact our HR system as a whole?”

“What is he talking about?” you ask. What I am talking about is the article that appeared in the WSJ on the September 29 Online edition. The article was entitled New Vow: I Don’t Take Thee – Young Single Adults Surpass Married Peers Amid High Divorce, Cohabitation Rates. Author Connor Dougherty starts off with “ For the first time since the U.S. began tallying marriages, more Americans of prime marrying age have stayed single rather than tied the knot, the culmination of a tectonic shift in the role of marriage and relationships that began in the 1960s.”  The author continues with “… data released Tuesday by the Census Bureau show that for the first time the proportion of people between the ages of 25 and 34 who have never been married exceeded those who were married in 2009—46.3% versus 44.9%, according to an analysis by Mark Mather, a demographer at the Population Reference Bureau, a non-profit research organization in Washington.” If you combine this with adults who have been divorced the married population has dropped to 52%, the lowest share in history. Compare this to 72.2% in 1960.

The article talks about a lot of the “whys” of this, but to get that information you need to read the article. What I was most interested in, and want you to think about, are the implication for your particular workforce in the coming 5 or more years. I want you to think strategically. What will this impact possible be for you and how will you be prepared to handle it.

Here are some of my general thoughts:

  • Recruitment- Might this have the effect of opening up a market of candidates that might be more willing to relocate in the future? What effect might this have on your pool of candidates? Will it make it easier to find people?
  • Compensation– Because there are more women getting college degrees and more women in the workforce who are now forestalling having children will this raise the overall compensation of women in the workforce. Will this have any impact on your pay policies (it shouldn’t if  you have been doing it right before this, but you never know?)
  • Benefits– How will a workforce composed of a large group of single people impact your benefit structure? Of course, many of these single people have “partners” (both hetero- and homosexual). Does this mean you will have to alter plans to cover more domestic partner situations?

Those are just three areas that quickly come to mind. What else might be included? That will depend on your company’s circumstances. But you need to be thinking about it now, proactively, and producing a contingency plan that will allow you to say to upper management “Here is a trend, here is how it will impact us near-term and long-term, and here is what we need to do about it.” Talk about earning your stripes.

Of course this may have been unnecessary for me to say. You already recoginize this stuff and do this strategic environmental scanning all the time? RIGHT!

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