How American workers feel about their role in the company differs with the generations, according to a survey of 27,813 employees at 13 companies conducted by ISR, a Chicago research and consulting firm. “Employees nationwide face workplace challenges in dealing with a number of issues, including company leadership, talent management, competitiveness and empowerment,” says Patrick Kulesa, ISR Global Research Director. “Our research uncovered significant differences in how the generations view their companies and their roles in them. Understanding these generation gaps and why they occur can help firms to increase employee engagement – and decrease turnover.”
The survey found that the youngest employees, those under 25, are the most optimistic about company leadership and career development, but are less engaged with their organizations. The Gen Xers (25-44 years old) are the least satisfied and most pessimistic about their corporate futures. The Baby Boomers (45-54) and Veterans (over 55) are least favorable on job authority and having information necessary to do their jobs, and they’re more concerned with “big picture” issues. “Past experience and changes in the social structure and the corporate environment may well have contributed to the disparity in attitudes between the generations,” says Kulesa.
The most optimistic group is the Nexters, or Millenials. These under-25-year-old employees are positive about company leadership and opportunities, even though they feel they don’t have adequate authority to service customers from their positions as front-line service providers. And although they have a natural inclination to work in teams, they’re not feeling favorable toward workplace groups. Although a common assumption would be that older workers want more stability, Nexters were the most disgruntled about the constantly shifting objectives of their companies. “This is a case of positive energy meeting the stiff realities of corporate America,” says Patrick Kulesa, ISR Global Research Director. ” These young employees are not fully engaged. Research suggests they would like to feel more empowered to serve customers.”
The most pessimistic employees are the Generation Xers, employees between 25 and 44 years old. “They’re the wet blankets in the workplace,” says Kulesa. Gen Xers are least positive about their company’s competitiveness in the market. Late Gen Xers, in particular, (35-44 years old) are least satisfied with their companies overall, and the most worried about employment security. Unlike Nexters, who are more conformist, Gen Xers are more independent and creative, notes Kulesa. He adds that research suggests that Gen Xers may also be concerned about the control that the Baby Boomers have over their corporate futures. The Gen X pessimism and need for security may well have been shaped by the changing family structures of the 70s and the 80s and the dramatic increase in divorce.
The older workers, the Baby Boomers (employees 45-54) and Veterans (55 and older) make up what Kulesa terms an “empowerment cliff.” The Baby Boomers, as well as late Gen Xers, do not believe they have sufficient job authority. The Veterans, by virtue of their greater experience and credibility, should feel empowered to challenge traditional ways more than any other generation; yet they do not. “Interestingly, the factors that drive employee engagement vary across these generational groups in a very distinct way,” Kulesa says. ” Nexters and Gen Xers are more motivated by the reward systems (current and potential), while Baby Boomers and Veterans focus more on recognition distinct from pay and benefits.”
Copyright 2007. Reprinted with permission from hr.com
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