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The Crystal Ball Series: Issue 4 – Your Secret Ace

November 20, 2019

The Both True series has been laying out big challenges for North America’s oil and gas industry. No challenge is more daunting than the growing economic and political relevance of an entire generation that is increasingly liberal, and even where conservative, not particularly supportive of oil and gas.

Before you retreat to the comforting territory of cursing the millennials, remember that you have your own millennials on staff. (And if you don’t, how the heck do you know how to use your phone to order food?) And those millennials are your ticket to addressing the challenges ahead. 

You’ll soon be surprised by the importance of talking to the millennials in your company. 

This is the fourth in the Crystal Ball five-part series.

Both of these things are true:

  • Millennials are poised to become the most important generation economically and politically in the U.S. — and stay so for the next three decades.They are politically more liberal and — even when conservative — less likely to support oil and gas than previous generations.
  • You have millennials on your team, and they are your secret ace  poised to help your company prepare for the future.

The problem crystal ball reveals

You’ll need to start engaging your company’s millennials in your strategic planning sooner than you think. (Millennials are the generation born between 1981 and 1996; these are your employees between ages 23 and 38.)

Millennials are no longer pampered interns, if they ever were. In fact, everything you’ve assumed about them is now wrong:

  • They’re still too young to matter.” The sheer numbers are staggering: in the U.S., millennials are surpassing boomers as the largest living adult generation and will dominate older generations through 2050. See figure below from Pew.
  • “They’re not into politics.” Think again: there will be nearly as manyeligible millennial voters as Boomers in the 2020 election, and after 2020 that gap grows. Further turnout from the 2018 midterm elections signifies the possibility of a huge youth and millennial turnout in 2020. That year, members of Generation X, millennials and Generation Z will account for 62 percent of the electorate — and they’re only getting older and more politically active as climate change advances as a political issue.
  • “OK, but isn’t this a right-center country, anyway?” Don’t sleep on this: The millennial electorate is trending Democrat, and we know that, outside of our employees, political affiliation is strongly tied to support for or opposition to oil and gas. In 2018, 59 percent of millennial-registered voters identified as Democrat or leaning Democrat compared to 48 percent of Boomers and Generation X. And even more surprising: millennials who identify as Republican favor more climate-friendly and anti-oil and gas policies than their counterparts in older generations. Fifty-nine percent of millennials identifying as Republican believe climate change is having some effect on the U.S. and only 47 percent are in favor of expanding fracking. (See the Pew chart below.) It’s fair to argue that millennials will get more conservative as they age, but remember some millennials are almost 40.
  • “They have to trust us.” No, they don’t — and overwhelmingly, they’re not. Millennials polled articulate that the Baby Boomer generation does not care about them or their political interests. Only 18 percent of young people feel that Baby Boomer voters care about them, and even fewer, 16 percent, feel that Baby Boomer elected officials care. This matters to how we build trust with both our millennial employees and with the public. If you haven’t heard the sardonic phrase “OK boomer” yet, get ready for it.
  • “They are still too young to matter.” (again) Millennials make up 35 percent of the US labor force and will make up 75 percent by 2030. According to FastCompany, 75 percent of millennials would take a pay cut to work at a company that’s environmentally responsible, and many surveys support that trend. Again, these numbers should help influence how we build trust with both our millennial employees and with the public.

It matters because

WE CANNOT BEAT THEM. STOP THINKING YOU CAN.

Instead, we must realize that our staff millennials are creative and forward-looking — and enlist them in our strategic planning for a world in which they will dominate.

The critical mistakes companies are making: 

Still holding senior leadership meetings of a bunch of old, mostly male leaders. The world is changing – strategic planning teams, leadership teams, and boards must too.

(If it hurts, you should read that twice.)

Seize the day.  Here’s the spoonful of sugar. We have so many amazing, talented, engaged millennials in our industry who love oil and gas and are ready to contribute in a much bigger way. The Magic 8 Ball now tells us.

  • REPLY HAZY TRY AGAIN. Create internal conversations about social risk with the most diverse group of strategic thinkers you can muster. If everyone around the table looks and/or sounds the same – you haven’t gotten the right group together yet. Try again.
  • SIGNS POINT TO YES. Empower the talented millennials within your company to influence your company’s values. If they aren’t buying into your values, it’s time to take a hard look at whether your company is positioning for the future.
  • MOST LIKELY. Engage millennials into your company’s strategic processes, particularly on your ESG strategy and commitments. They are fluent in this language of diversity, social responsibility, and sustainability in ways we never will be.

If you need help integrating your millennials into your strategic planning process, we are here to help. Just reply

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