Understanding Generational Differences in the Workplace: Findings and Conclusions

Understanding Generational Differences in the Workplace
Human Resources

The study of generational differences has garnered increasing interest among organizations, practitioners and researchers in recent years. There are many reasons for this keen interest, including the need to manage people from several different generations, to better adapt the workplace to a multigenerational workforce, to attract and retain new talent, and to identify the working conditions that will lead to positive attitudes and behaviours among younger workers.

Since workers from different generations have always worked together, why does this situation currently appear to be raising challenges for human resource management? Three reasons are put forward. First, the different generations are said to have different values and expectations regarding work which are not easily compatible. Second, people from different generations are working together for longer periods now than they did in the past. Workers are less likely to follow the clear cut studies-work-retirement path that was formerly standard. People leave their jobs, upgrade their skills, look for new jobs, change careers, retire and then, increasingly, re-enter the labour market. Third and lastly, the difficulties stemming from this situation are brought about by discrepancies in the management practices of companies themselves. Stable, high-quality jobs are becoming scarce. Employees are no longer accumulating the funds needed to ensure financial security during retirement and find themselves having to work longer. Those who have invested in enhancing their skills and who have had unstable careers are staying in the workforce longer or taking advantage of bridge employment opportunities which delay their exit from the labour market.

In this research report, we will show that generational differences are a myth and have very little empirical support. Following a contextual overview, we will discuss the theoretical and analytical frameworks that have been used to explain the differences between the generations. We will end with some conclusions.

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