Research regarding generational differences in work values has relied
heavily on anecdotal or non-empirical data which was considered limited,
according to Jean M. Twenge, PhD, professor of psychology at San Diego State
University and lead author of the study, Generational Differences in Work
Values: Leisure and Extrinsic Values Increasing, Social and Intrinsic Values
The study, considered one of the first to examine differences in work
values among generations across time, surveyed baby boomers (born in the
1950s), members of Generation X (born in the 1970s) and Millennials (born in
the 1980s), and included 16,507 respondents. Twenge and her co-authors compared
the answers of high school seniors at three different times — 1976, 1991
|Jean M. Twenge|
Results of the study indicated that the Millennials, also known as
Generation Y or Generation Me, scored the highest in valuing a work-life
balance compared to previous generations.
“The largest difference we found among the three generations is
that Generation Me scored much higher in valuing ‘leisure
values,’” Twenge told O&P Business News. “These would
include not being under a lot of pressure at work and having more vacation
Millennials, compared to previous generations, were more likely to say
that work was not as important and were less willing to work overtime.
Millennials also were less likely to say that work would be a central part of
their lives and are more likely to believe their jobs are just a means to make
a living. This data supports the popular belief that the value of work has
declined over time. The shift toward an increased investment in leisure could
reflect the realities of the current work environment, according to the study.
As baby boomers give way to a younger generation in the job market, businesses
must decide if they are willing to cater to their changing work values.
“Being aware of the generational differences might help hiring
managers recruit and manage these groups better,” Twenge said.
Google Inc. is one company that seems to understand the young
worker’s generation. The study points out that it offers young workers
“balance enhancers” such as flexible work hours, free use of laundry
machines and dog-friendly offices. Google Inc. is consistently rated as one of
the companies Millennials most want to work for, the study found.
But not all companies get it. The study investigated the belief that
Millennials are focused on community service and look for jobs that are
considered worthwhile to society. The results of the study however, show little
change in altruistic values through the three generations.
“Based on the belief that Generation Me cares more about
volunteerism and social issues, a number of companies, as a way to attract
younger employees, have introduced extensive volunteer programs that allow
employees to do volunteer work on the company’s time,” Twenge wrote
in the study. “[But] GenMe was no more likely than GenX or boomers to
value work that helps others or is worthwhile to society.” — by