HR’s Generation Generalizations

By Staff Report

Oct. 18, 2005

Fifty-six percent of human resources professionals believe there are “major differences” between what employees from different generations want from their jobs, according to a survey of 100 HR managers conducted by Sirota Survey Intelligence, a Purchase, New York, firm that specializes in attitude research.

Such assumptions are gross generalizations and often result in managers lumping employees into categories that are not accurate, says David Sirota, chairman of Sirota Survey Intelligence and co-author of The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want. “HR people talk in terms of Generation X and Generation Y, and it often distorts what people are like,” he says. As a result, companies do not understand what motivates these employees.

For example, employers often assume that job security isn’t as important to younger employees as it is to their older colleagues, Sirota says. But that’s just not true. “All employees are motivated by pride in one’s work, a sense of camaraderie and being treated fairly, no matter how old they are,” he says.

Eric Chester, president of Generation Why, a consulting firm in Lakewood, Colorado, agrees that job security, equity and camaraderie are important to employees of all ages, but he says employers need to recognize that these things may have different levels of importance for workers of different generations.

For example, younger workers may feel that flexibility is more important than getting promoted, while older employees would rather get a promotion than have Wednesdays off, he says. “We have so many people who built their lives around their jobs, but the younger generation wants a life first and then a job to accommodate that lifestyle,” he says. “HR managers need to revisit their policies and make sure that they accommodate this different mind-set.”

 Jessica Marquez

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