There are many clear differences between colleagues of different generations. But these have less to do with age and more to do with the impactful events that occur during formative years. When you're managing employees, consider the values the different generations hold dear.
Every generation is shaped by a few important world events, trends or experiences that contribute to its overall identity.
- Baby boomers experienced the assassination of JFK, the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement.
- Generation X (.pdf) had the Cold War, the Challenger explosion and the rise of AIDS.
- Generation Y's identifying experiences include 9/11, the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the recession.
These key experiences help to explain political, social and occupational motivations for any given generation. Making sweeping generalizations doesn't help you to understand the make-up of the individuals in a group, but they can help you see how people evolve with the world around them.
The context also helps us evaluate how different generations develop the priorities that govern their life decisions, and how those affect them at work. Gen-Y's top three priorities, according to a Pew research study, may surprise you. Here are some of the reasons behind each of them.
1. Being a good parent
The economic climate and rising costs of college have caused many Millennials to land back in their parents' homes. According to Pew Research, 30 percent of Gen-Y is living with their parents. Of that, a whopping 78 percent are happy about it.
Being a good parent is one of the most important things in their lives, said 52 percent of respondents in the study.
Gen-Y has very strong relationships with their parents (boomers). Their parents are still very much part of their decision-making process, even for older Gen-Yers. They recognize all that their parents have done to help them succeed, and they want to do the same for their children.
2. Having a successful marriage
Gen-Y has grown up during a time when divorce occurs in more than half of all marriages. In fact, only six out of 10 them were raised with married parents. Of the study's respondents, 30 percent said that having a successful marriage was of the utmost importance to them.
They have seen the negative effects of divorce, both personal and financial, and are determined not to make the same mistakes. For this reason, and for financial concerns, Gen-Y members are not rushing to get married. Only 21 percent are married now, half the amount of their parent’s generation at the same age.
3. Helping others in need
Helping others doesn’t just mean in their free time. Gen-Y has come of age during the global-warming debate and during a lot financial scandal (Enron, WorldCom, Bernie Madoff). The Pew study showed that 21 percent of respondents said helping others is key for them.
They want to work for organizations that put people first and the bottom line second. In fact, according to a Deloitte study, 92 percent of Gen-Y believes that success in business should not be measured purely by profit (.pdf).
Work with them
As an employer of Gen-Y, if you hope to develop and retain the top talent, consider their priorities. Realize that work won't be at the top of the list. They value a true work-life balance. And they want an opportunity to give back to the community through your company.
Understanding this and adapting to it will allow you to get the most productivity and longevity out of a generation that has a lot of intellect to offer your organization.
Dan Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen-Y research and management consulting firm. Subscribe to his updates at Facebook.com/DanSchawbel.
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