Generation X (born between 1965 and 1982) is beginning to take over the reins of senior management from the Baby Boomers. Generation Y (born between 1983 and 1999) is moving into work and up the management hierarchy. Soon, we’ll have a Generation Z (born after 2000) to create at least four generations in the workforce. Randstad’s World of Work research reveals many areas of agreement such as the importance of work-life balance, along with a few key differences — particularly when it comes to job mobility and management styles.
Aspiration and mobility
While few now expect a job for life, research suggests that most Generation Y workers go further by being reluctant to stay with any particular organisation for more than five to seven years. The maxim is to ‘acquire new skills, build up experience and move on’. If you can’t keep them and your business up-to-date with the latest developments you are at particular risk of losing them. That in turn creates the challenge of how much to invest in the development of people who may soon leave.
Randstad’s research suggests that Baby Boomers are happiest in their jobs, perhaps because they are more likely to have the work-life balance many desire, and their experience lends itself to more realistic career expectations. Generation Y are less satisfied due to rapidly growing aspirations and a possible genuine concern that their hard work in education may not deliver their desired career path. Generation X workers, who are often contending with both middle age and middle management, are the least satisfied.
Generation Y are demanding more collaboration and less hierarchy in the workplace. Many leadership experts argue the analytical, process-driven style of leadership that saw companies run by accountants, lawyers and economists in the 20th century won’t work in this one – because process-driven leadership depends on a level of certainty that simply doesn’t exist anymore. Generation Y is accustomed to rapid change and may therefore find this more uncertain environment easier to deal with.
Two-thirds of the employers taking part in Randstad’s World of Work survey believe managing a multigenerational workforce is one of the biggest challenges they face. The generations may indeed have different expectations. As people work longer, potential causes of tension include fewer opportunities for promotion among younger staff. Research carried out by KPMG suggests that many younger workers feel deprived of career opportunities as their older counterparts work on past the statutory retirement age. Many older workers may in turn feel their skills and experience are under-valued or that promotion is denied to them after they reach a particular age. A person who is made unemployed after 50 takes much longer to get back into work than a younger counterpart. The result of all these trends is an increase in intergenerational conflict – what the KPMG report dub as ‘age warfare’.
How much will the way you run your business need to change to take account of the multigenerational dimension? Is tension inevitable? Clearly, it’s no longer possible to have a one-size-fits-all approach to engagement, management and career progression. But there are ways to satisfy different expectations and promote inter-generational collaboration as part of an approach which is more customised around the needs and aspirations of individual employees.
Source: Randstad Workpocket Australia (2015)