A new study has debunked stereotypes about workers of
different generations and shown they may have more in common
than we think.
Rather than revealing a generation gap in attitudes between
Generation Y, Generation X, Baby Boomers and Veterans, the
Massey University doctoral thesis found workers of all ages
wanted a satisfying job, quality of life, good workmates and
a supportive boss.
Researcher Kristin Murray said she began the study several
years ago when working in a call centre, with mostly
20-something staff in their first job.
"There was quite a different culture and behaviour from the
rest of the business, where people were in their mid-30s,"
But her research found those cultural differences weren't
reflected in underlying values and motivations.
Her study, published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Human
Resources, asked 169 people to answer 69 questions about
what they valued in an ideal job.
Only eight questions showed a significant difference in
responses between the generations.
The greatest generation gap in attitudes was between
Veterans, born between 1925 and 1945, and Baby Boomers, born
between 1946 and 1964.
Boomers and Gen X-ers were most alike.
Gen Y respondents had some surprising priorities, including
security of income.
Dr Murray, a 44-year-old Gen X-er, said the study focused on
values, so there could still be differences in behaviour
between age groups.
And while workers of all ages wanted a "supportive manager"
that may mean different things for different ages, with some
wanting independence and others seeking regular feedback.
Dr Murray, who works as an executive manager for Wellington
Free Ambulance, said the key lesson for employers was not to
make assumptions based on age.
"You actually just need to manage that person as an
individual and find out what it is that motivates them."
Jason Walker, New Zealand managing director for recruitment
company Hays, said his company's research showed there were
differences between the generations.
Mr Walker said Gen Y were more risk-taking in their careers,
and were willing to move on quicker from their current
They were also technologically savvy, used to fast-paced
results, and "will not start at the bottom by getting the tea
"While Baby Boomers believed if they worked hard and did a
good job their employer would look after them, and Generation
X are content to work their way up the corporate ladder as
long as they continue to learn and expand their skills,
Generation Y need to be continually challenged and see a
clear path of progression, or they will go elsewhere."
Mr Walker said Gen Y workers also saw flexibility and
work-life balance as important; they wanted to enjoy life
while maintaining a successful career.
- Veterans, those born between 1925 and 1945
- Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964
- Gen X, born between 1965 and 1981
- Gen Y, born between 1982 and 1994
- By Heather McCracken of APNZ