Despite the often-cited differences among today’s multigenerational workforce, they agree on one thing: working for a stable company and job security are the two most important aspects of the work environment, according to Workplace Redefined: Shifting Generational Attitudes During Economic Change.
The findings, released July 2010, are from a survey that global staffing firm Robert Half International conducted with 1,403 full-time professionals—including 502 hiring managers. Respondents were in the United States and Canada and had a college degree or were working toward one. Baby Boomers surveyed were 46 to 64 years old; Generation X workers were age 32 to 45 years old; and Generation Y employees were 21 to 31 years old.
Working for a stable company and having job security won out over a short commute and working for a socially responsible organization as the two most important aspects of the work environment.
That also was borne out when respondents were asked to identify the most valuable career lesson learned during the recession.
Generation Y: “Focus on skills and knowledge development to increase your value to your company.”
Generation X: “Don’t take your job for granted.”
Baby Boomer: “Stability is king.”
Hiring managers should bear the findings in mind, according to Brett Good, president of Robert Half International, and stress their organization’s tenure, legacy, how it’s withstood the economic challenges and how it’s poised for growth.
“You have to understand what’s important to these multi-generations,” he said in a video on the company’s site. “If workplace stability is most important to them, during the hiring process is that what you’re stressing?”
The findings regarding the importance of job stability are similar to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2010 Employee Job Satisfaction survey report released June 27 at its Annual Conference in San Diego. Workers ranked job security and benefits as the top two very important contributors to job satisfaction over other factors for the fourth consecutive year, SHRM found.
Other commonalities the three generations share, according to the Robert Half survey:
- Salary, benefits and company stability were the top three most important factors when evaluating a job offer.
- Health care in the U.S./extended health care coverage in Canada, and vacation/paid time off were the most highly rated benefits and perks.
“There has been considerable focus on the differences among various generations, but our research confirms many similarities,” said Max Messmer in a news release. Messmer is chairman and CEO of Robert Half International and author of Human Resources Kit for Dummies, 2nd Edition (John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2006).
“Understanding the values shared by nearly all employees, particularly in light of changing economic conditions, can help companies enhance their recruitment and retention efforts,” he said.
The three generations agreed that differing work ethics, approaches to work/life balance, different communication styles, and different views that made consensus difficult were the greatest challenges to working together. However, they agree that benefits include bringing together people of varying experience levels, a greater diversity of project teams, and mentoring opportunities.
Among generational differences the survey found:
- Generation X workers are slightly more likely than Boomers to enhance their skill sets and build tenure after the recession.
- Generation Y workers are more likely to look for new job opportunities after the recession than are Generation X and Baby Boomers.
- Generation Y places more value on on-site perks such as dry cleaning service, fitness centers, cafeterias or subsidized lunches, transportation, gym memberships and snacks or lunch.
- Baby Boomers and Generation X place more value on 401(k) plans—or in Canada, Registered Retirement Savings Plans—and bonus programs.
The survey found that the recent recession is the biggest factor cited among those who intend to work beyond traditional retirement age. However, a higher percentage of workers in the U.S. than Canada said the recession has had a very strong impact on this decision (39 percent vs. 13 percent, respectively).
Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News.