Generational Differences in What We Want from Work...

Recently I had the opportunity to be on a college campus consulting with a client in the northeast. The campus was full of incoming freshman having orientation while sitting on the grass in small groups in the bright sunshine. My first thought was, "Wow, they are so young." And my second thought (after listening in on some of the conversations led by equally young "upper classmen") was, "Boy- they sure are smart."

Are You Ready to Lead the Next Generation?

Are organizations ready to be workplaces where this new generation of workers (are they the Net or Homeland generation?) will want to be a part of, and can be successful? How will "older workers" engage this exciting energy and intelligence to create a culture of workplace excellence that reflect the future? What is the role of HR or senior leaders? Are they even thinking about it?

Changes in What the Workforce Wants

Findings in the APA Workforce Retention Survey of over 1,000 US-based working adults conducted this month show differences by age in what we want.

Working Americans age 55 and older were the most likely to cite the following as reasons for staying with their current employers:

  • enjoying the work (80%)
  • work-life fit (76%)
  • benefits (66%)
  • feeling connected to the organization (63%)
  • having an opportunity to make a difference (57%)
Employees ages 18-34 were least likely to name those same top three items - enjoying the work (58%), work-life fit (61%), and benefits (54%) - would keep them on the job. Yet they were most likely to endorse co-workers (57%) and managers (46%) as reasons to stay.

Hearing the Voices of Multiple Generations in Your Workforce

Seeing those young people on the campus interacting so freely with each other reminded me how important communication is, and knowing how to foster healthy relationships will be to a successful working environment.  It is also just a good way to live life. (One thing I did not see was the look on the parents' faces as they drove away.  Were they thinking about the cost of college?)

There is little doubt that organizations that can promote work environments where each generation can be successful will have the edge.  The 10th anniversary MetLife Benefits trends report findings indicate that over the past decade more employers are integrating the generational perspective into benefits programming.  It points out that the "voice of the younger generation" is starting to be heard.  As we enter into the benefits enrollment season, what is your organization doing to "listen" to the needs and preferences of your workforce?

Written by: Andrea Wicks Bowles

About the Author

Andrea Wicks Bowles at Bright Horizons

As Senior Consultant, Director Global Initiatives, Horizons Workforce Consulting, Andrea works with Bright Horizons clients to enhance the effectiveness of their employees and strengthen their position as an employer of choice. Her knowledge of global child care policies, organizational effectiveness, and work/life industry trends combined with analytical skills is used to help clients uncover their unique issues and challenges. Andrea, a frequent speaker at work/life conferences, is a key contributor to Bright Horizons' research investigations.