Freshman Today, Your Employees in 2014

February 21, 2011

February 21, 2011:  What does it mean for future employers if the self-rated emotional health of their future workforce is the lowest it has been since 1985 (when the question was first asked and tracked)?  According to The American Freshman by the HERI (Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA) there has been a decrease in the number of freshman that report high levels of emotional health and an increase in the number of freshman that report being frequently “overwhelmed by all I have to do” as high school seniors.  Even more unsettling is the difference between men and women freshman…38.8% of women felt stressed and overwhelmed as a high school senior versus 17.6% of men. 

If the stress levels continue what is the emotional state you can expect those new recruits to be in when they arrive on their first day at work?  Will adjustments be needed in the onboarding process? Will supervisors need to become sensitive (or more sensitive) to their emotional state?  Will over-coddling continue for this generation (or be the prescriptive consultants prescribe)?  I think this depends on how you value your employees.

Most companies have an EAP (employee assistance program) to help employees deal with emotional issues which are paid for by the company.  This allows the employee to see a counselor or clinician to work through their issues including addiction, stress, balance issues, etc. at no cost to the employee.  So it is safe to say that companies – to an extent – are currently aware that an employee’s emotional state impacts their productivity.  But for the most part EAPs are underutilized by employees and HR practioners will tell you their constant marketing of all the EAP has to offer falls on deaf ears. 

So what do we do?  First, new hires – especially those just out of college – need to learn about an EAP-type offering from their peers.  We all know that Millennials turn to their peers for guidance and advice on just about everything.  Second, additional soft skills training – like time management and dealing with stress – needs to be included in a new hires first year.  Finally, managers need to be clued in to recognize stress and overwhelming-type symptoms in their new hires and trained in how to deal with stress and productivity issues. 

There is no silver bullet answer but awareness of changing trends in our youngest employees is the first step to dealing with the issue and getting ahead of the issue before it derails a potential high performers.  As we all know, those high performers don’t just fall from the sky. 


Are you 21 to 30 years old?  If so, we want your voice.  The last few years have been interesting to say the least and the Millennial Generation (Gen Y) has graduated or worked through one of the toughest economic periods in recent decades.  Take our confidential, online survey to share your thoughts on working in corporate America, future employment decisions, what’s important about work and your future.  The survey ends at midnight on March 1 so hurry up.  It’ll take less than 10 minutes to give us your opinions.  Survey link: http://bit.ly/fnN2tF.  Feel free to tweet out the link, share it with your friends and send it to your connections! 



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