Baby boomers and Generation Y are not so different after all, with a new study finding they have similar attitudes to work.
Massey University PhD graduate Kristin Murray conducted a generational study of workplaces which found there were similarities across all age groups in their attitude to work.
Murray found job satisfaction and job fulfilment were among the top-rated values for all groups, as were people-focused statements like 'Good rapport with colleagues', 'Enjoy the people I work with' and 'Supportive team'.
"From the literature you would expect Baby Boomers to rate having a good rapport with their colleagues highly as they are depicted as being relationship-focused," Murray said.
"But Gen X-ers are usually described as independent and autonomous so, for them, that finding challenges the stereotype."
Murray said she started out with the normal preconceptions about the different generations - especially around Gen Y and their need for constant attention and praise.
"I expected to find some clear differences in the attitudes of Veterans, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y, but that changed during the course of my research.
"I was surprised to learn that there are actually more similarities than differences between the generational cohorts."
The key finding from her research was that managers should ignore the stereotypes associated with each of the generational groups and approach each employee as an individual, Murray said.
"Baby Boomers are demographically significant so I can see that it's a useful planning tool to identify this large group of people coming through, but in many ways terms like Gen Y or Gen X are just labels.
"People don't necessarily think of themselves as 'Gen X', so the terms are really a set of stereotypes that aren't based on rigorous research, they are labels used by the media because they are catchy and make good anecdotal stories."
A much better approach was to understand each individual's particular values, Murray said.
"While a younger person may behave quite differently to an older person at work, what they value might not be as different as you think.
"Companies will get the best results from staff if they look at needs on an individual basis.
"And when considering programmes, it's best to implement policies for everyone instead of trying to target the needs of a particular generational cohort."
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