2022 Midterm Elections: Lessons for the Workplace

Except for a few election results yet to be finalized, the months of paid political ads, news stories, political pundit pontification, and guesswork have come to an end for the 2022 midterm elections. The big news – there was no "red wave." The Democrats will retain control of the Senate. While not on the ballot, President Joe Biden survived the attacks and criticism and firmly controls the Democratic Party. For their part, Republicans did manage to take control of the House of Representatives. While the seats won by the party did not live up to expectations, having control of one chamber of Congress does give Republicans a seat at the table for policy and regulatory conversations for the next two years and will almost certainly prevent the Biden Administration from moving their legislative agenda forward.   

When the 118th Congress comes to DC in January 2023, we will almost certainly see numerous investigations and aggressive scrutiny of the Biden administration's legislative and regulatory policy. House committees now chaired by Republicans will no doubt use their new power to scrutinize, modify, or change policies and directives such as National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) guidance on secret ballot elections and issues surrounding free-speech meetings held by an employer. And, with a divided Congress gridlocked on the legislative front to be expected, and legislative victories on issues such as the PRO Act are dead, there will be no doubt the Biden Administration will turn their attention to advancing policy issues through the various federal cabinet agencies and looking to the states, at least the blue states, to move their priorities forward.   

While the legislative and regulatory landscape will definitely change during the 118th Congress, one of the most surprising learnings from this year's mid-term election cycle was the role young people played in the outcome of key races. According to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) based at Tuft's University, 27% of young voters (18-29) showed up and voted in the 2020 midterm elections. Traditionally, young voters have not participated in great numbers during elections. But the 2022 levels were the second-highest level in nearly 30 years and can be credited with helping many Democrats reach the win column. This age group overwhelmingly supported Democratic House candidates by a staggering 62% to 35%.  

Employees Want Employers that Care

For employers, what is important to remember about the statistics stated above is that, according to Gallup, younger workers (Gen Z and Millennials) comprise 46% of the full-time workforce in the United States. Gallup also found during an earlier survey what Gen Z and millennials looked for most in an employer. At the top of the responses was an employer who cares about their well-being, with the elements of well-being being described as career, social, financial, community, and physical. What makes this even more interesting is Gallup's finding in an August survey found that 71% of Americans now approve of labor unions. This coincides with findings from the House Committee on Education and Labor and the Joint Economic Committee report that showed union election wins reached 70%, a level not seen in over 50 years.   

So, what we have is a more political/issue-active workforce making up nearly 50% of the workplace, and they're identifying with issues closely aligned with the Democratic party and organized labor. At the same time, with five different generations in the workplace, employers cannot simply focus on the younger workers or apply a one-size-fits-all approach. Employers must continue to engage with the entire generational arc and connect with them, utilizing the various channels, tools, and learning styles to share information, drive business results, and determine what workers want in the workplace. 

2022 midterm elections multigenerational workforce

Best Practices for Engaging a Multigenerational Workplace 

A few best practices to keep in mind for employers when engaging the multigenerational workplace include: 

  • Appreciate the differences of the workforce and be respectful, understanding, and flexible. All groups still find direct engagement with the manager or supervisor to be most beneficial. These frontline leaders must have an active role in engaging the workforce and be trained and given the tools to be successful. 
  • Use communications tools and channels that the different groups prefer. For instance, Gen Z and most millennials get their information almost exclusively on devices. Employers must customize their engagement with each employee group and reach them on the platforms or channels they connect with to absorb information. 
  • Don't make assumptions or stereotypes about the different groups, such as the worker is too old and cannot learn technology or that the younger workers are lazy. Leaders must be given the training to be effective, including having difficult conversations. 
  • Leverage each group's unique strength and recognize the value of working together. An employer must create opportunities and forums for employees to connect, share ideas, and believe they have a voice in the organization
  • Create an environment that inspires each other to grow. The different generations can teach and learn something from each other. 
  • Create opportunities for employees to have their voices heard and stay attentive to what the employees are telling managers. Communication mechanisms must be two-way, and success will depend on having a dialogue with the employee base. Simply pushing information out to workers does not ensure leadership's point of view is understood or appreciated. 
Digital engagement workbook CTA

The good news for business leadership is that the data indicates even though favorability and election wins are on the rise, most nonunion workers in the United States still say they are "not interested at all" in joining a union. What this creates is an opportunity to build stronger relationships and engagement with employees, thereby keeping them from changing their point of view on joining a union and maintaining their strong productivity and personal well-being

In addition to building bridges with employees and increasing transparency and information sharing, a new Congress also presents an opportunity for organizations to build relationships with new political leaders. As of November 16th, 77 new House members and seven Senators will come to the 118th Congress. This presents a chance for many organizations to introduce themselves to their new member of Congress. Whether you have a government affairs capability or use external resources to manage your legislative and regulatory issues, this is a perfect opening to work with the new officials and share the facts and details about your operations, including how you treat your workforce and the important role they play in your success. 

Use the Post-2022 Midterm Elections Season to Strengthen Employee Engagement

The bottom line is the outcome of the 2022 midterm elections and the divided Congress in 2023 will prevent any significant legislative victories for the labor movement. However, the Biden Administration continues to have a large megaphone to champion pro-labor causes and still has regulatory channels available to advance their agenda. Organizations will be well-served to use this time of stalemate in DC to strengthen their engagement with employees, elected officials, and supporters. Contact our team of experts at IRI Consultants if you need help getting started in the right direction.

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