The kids are all right

2008

Younger generations – even the Baby Boomers of 1960s – almost always complain they are misunderstood, ignored and patronised by their elders and "betters". But, in the case of the Generation Y of up-and-coming workers, they may have a point.

A study of U.S workers by Sirota Survey Intelligence has found that, far from being a generation of demanding, workplace slackers, there is little difference between the engagement of Generation Y of workers aged 27 or younger and older generations.

"With the exception of employees age 63 and older, the differences between employees' levels of engagement in their jobs are fairly narrow," said Douglas Klein, president of Sirota Survey Intelligence.

"Our research dispels the myths about younger employees being more disengaged from their jobs," he added.

Sirota looked at the cross-generational attitudes of more than 300,000 workers in more than 50 organisations during 2006 and 2007, studying Generation Y, X (ages 28 to 42), Baby Boomers (ages 43-62) and "traditionalists", or those aged 63 or older.

It looked at employees' overall satisfaction with their jobs, pride in working for their employers, whether they would recommend their organisations as a place to work, and their willingness to put forth extra effort, with the responses collected in an "index of employee engagement".

It found the traditionalist generation were the most engaged in their jobs overall, with an 84 per cent employee engagement level.

The engagement levels of the other groups were all within a relatively narrow range of 77 per cent to 80 per cent, with Generation Y – at 80 per cent – actually more engaged than Generation X or Baby Boomers.

Engagement generally dropped off after a year in the same job but then started to rise again if an employee stayed with the same organisation for more than six years, it also found.

"Many new employees begin losing their enthusiasm for their new jobs regardless of how old they are," said Klein.

"Employees' continued or maintained level of engagement depends on how well management meets their needs and expectations during their time with their employers," he added.

Reflecting on the results – and considering the fact the workforce is ageing – Klein argued that traditionalists might be an overlooked resource for employers.

"They consistently have higher employee engagement levels than other employees with comparable tenure," he said.

"With more people living healthy, active lifestyles, and so many traditionalists uncertain whether they will have the financial resources to enable them to retire, they may want to stay in the workforce longer.

"Employers may want to consider part-time and/or flexible work arrangements to keep more of these loyal, enthusiastic workers onboard," he added.