Generational Views on Career Challenge Employers

The more things change, the more different generations of workers become the same, suggests a new study about generational views on careers from Robert Half. The research shows that workers of all ages have a new appreciation for company stability when making career decisions. Yet, four out of 10 professionals polled said they are more inclined to look for new opportunities outside their firms as a result of the recession.

Cross-generational teams bring challenges and rewards. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of hiring managers said managing multigenerational work teams poses a challenge. But more than one-third of workers polled felt having a group of employees at different experience levels increases productivity.

What are the most significant generational differences when it comes to workforce planning?

  • Generational views on next career steps differ. For Gen Y, looking for a new job is the most common post-recession career plan, whereas Gen Xers polled said they are more inclined to update their skills. For baby boomers surveyed, staying put at their companies was the most commonly cited post-recession career plan.
  • More Gen Yers (36 percent) than Gen Xers (30 percent) and baby boomers (24 percent) planned to look for new job opportunities.
  • Gen Xers polled were more inclined to enhance their skills sets (38 percent) and build tenure with their companies (33 percent) in the aftermath of the recession than other generations.
  • A greater percentage of baby boomers (54 percent) than Gen X (46 percent) or Gen Y (39 percent) respondents said they will work past the traditional retirement age.
  • More Gen Xers (34 percent) than baby boomers (27 percent) said they had increased their retirement savings since the recession began.
  • More baby boomers (54 percent) than Gen X (45 percent) or Gen Y (35 percent) employees identified the greatest challenge when working with multiple generations as having differing work ethics and approaches to work/life balance; more Gen Yers attributed difficulties to differing communication styles (29 percent for Gen Y versus 16 percent for both Gen X respondents and baby boomers).

But different generations don’t always see the world differently? Many generation similarities do exist.

Understanding the values shared by nearly all employees, particularly in light of changing economic conditions, can help companies enhance their recruitment and retention efforts,” said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International and author of “Human Resources Kit For Dummies,” second edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.).

  • For all generations surveyed, working for a stable company and having job security were two of the most important aspects of the work environment, beating out having a short commute or working for a socially responsible company.
  • When evaluating employment offers, salary, company stability and benefits were the most important factors for all three generations.
  • Health care coverage, dental coverage, vacation time and 401(k) matching were the highest valued benefits for all generations surveyed.
  • The most commonly cited benefit of being part of multigenerational work teams was bringing together various experience levels to provide knowledge in specific areas.

“Many employees, particularly Gen Y professionals, are biding their time in their current employment situations and plan to make a move when they feel the economy is on firmer footing,” said Brett Good, a Robert Half International district president. “Now is the time for employers to take action and outline career paths within their company for strong performers. “

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