Is COBOL a Good Fit for Today’s Workforce? A Millennial Perspective

“Millennials want to find meaning in their work, and they want to make a difference. They want to be listened to. They want you to understand that they fuse life and work. They want to have a say about how they do their work. They want to be rewarded. They want to be recognized. They want a good relationship with their boss. They want to learn. But most of all, they want to succeed. They want to have fun!”

The above is a quote by Chip Espinoza, an expert on generational diversity, referring to the Millennial generation (that group of people born 1980 to 1996). This is a great summary of characteristics you want to see in a good work environment, but it’s very general and, at this high level, could describe the workplace wish list of any of the generations.

Survey results, collected by Great Place to Work, has provided a more detailed insight into what Millennials currently want in their workplace. Claire Hastwell, in the article Top 5 Things Millennials Want in the Workplace in 2021, gives a fantastic review of the Millennial perspective, using the survey findings.

I thought it would be interesting to discuss her 5 summary subjects from the viewpoint of a person who works on a software development team with Millennials of all ages. I’ve reused her subject headings below, but the discussion is strictly my own opinion and experience. I’ve worked with students entering the workforce as well as younger, more established workers, and these are my observations.

Fair Pay and Personal Meaning

In the conventional workforce, seniority, along with pay increases and more interesting job assignments, usually comes with age and experience. However, Millennials want to move into senior, high pay roles faster than was expected in a traditional workplace. Employers will have to address this need in Millennials or lose employees who won’t wait to accumulate experience before getting more money and more fulfilling work.

Inclusive Benefits that go Beyond Parenthood

Although they aren’t usually at the point where they appreciate the benefits of being part of a pension plan, the Millennials I’ve seen have welcomed vacation and sick leave benefits. Employers will definitely need to be creative in providing other benefits that appeal to this group, such as the “Pawternity”, pet leave, described in the article.

Gender Equity at all levels

Traditionally a male dominated field, programming is now representing both male and female workers equally. Women have shown that they excel in the technical field and are as good as, if not better than, their male counterparts. Employers will need to continue to ensure that women programmers are given equal opportunities, or they may lose valuable employees as a result.

Post-Pandemic Flexibility

As mentioned in the article, Millennials will prefer the Hybrid model of working post-pandemic, where there is a mix of remote and in-office work. My experience has been that Millennials are anxious to meet with team members but would prefer flexible work arrangements where they could still work remotely at least part of the time. Having already had that experience during the pandemic, Millennials will want to continue this way of working.

Safe Spaces Where They can be Involved

According to the survey results, Millennials want to work where they can bring fresh ideas and be heard. This might be a challenge in the COBOL programming role where the infrastructure and tools have been used in the same way for many years. They may enjoy a role in the modernization of COBOL in terms of rewriting old code or adding a more modern GUI front end to a COBOL backend. In any case, Millennials will not settle for “micromanagement or being put in a box”.

 

Will COBOL survive an entire workplace of Millennials? Since more senior members on a COBOL developer team are still Baby Boomers and Generation X, this question remains to be answered. Millennials want the opportunity to create and bring new ideas to their workplace. In the end, the traditional COBOL workplace may go through some changes that can’t even be conceived of yet. Stay tuned…

 

Author: Donna Jennings

I have a BA and a BComm, as well as a Diploma in Programming. I have been a COBOL system designer and coder for over 25 years, and I am still trying to demystify the language for myself...I Love the culture of COBOL and how it has provided so many people, including myself, with a lifelong livelihood. The opinions in my posts are completely my own, based on my many years of experience working in a COBOL development environment.

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