The Baby Boomers’ optimism may have set up their kids, Generation X, for a letdown. Whereas the boomers are optimistic, their children, who have seen two recessions and the dot-com bust, are skeptical of the employer-employee relationship; they don’t expect job security and they won’t jump through hoops to get it. According to Mike Boyd, managing director of the southern Colorado and New Mexico territories for Right Management, a human resources and career transition consulting company, 84 percent of Gen Xers define loyalty to a company not in terms of length of service, but rather in terms of performance. Boyd cites a Hudson Institute research study that reports 33 percent are at “high risk” for leaving their jobs.
In addition to the adverse events that have shaped their career outlooks, Gen Xers are children of the information age of the 1980s to the present. Their world is fast paced and constantly changing, features the manipulation of information, and rewards networking. It’s a web, not a pyramid. Because they’ve grown accustomed to this kind of instant access and feedback, Gen Xers expect a similar environment in the workplace and are likely to leave if they don’t find it. John R. Throop writes in Mastering the ABCs of Organizations that the top three job requirements of Gen Xers are full appreciation for work done, feeling included in decision making, and sympathetic help with personnel problems. Gen Xers want a sense of the big picture and their role in it, and they want their employers to hear what they have to say. If they don’t feel they’re getting all of that at their current job, they’re more than happy to keep switching positions until they find one that gives them what they want.
Generation Y/Millennials (Born 1981 and Later)
If the Gen Xers grew up with technology, the Gen Yers can’t imagine living without it. They’ve been plugged in since before birth, when they were listening to Baby Einstein tapes, and they’ve had their own cell phones since their little fingers could punch the numbers. “Generation Y is the first in history to have lived their entire lives with information technology,” says Cristina Simón, professor at the Instituto de Empresa in Madrid. “It is not easy for them to understand the world without it.”
Like the instant access a mouse-click provides, Gen Yers expect to have a direct impact on the world, and they’ll leave jobs if they don’t see themselves playing a big role and accomplishing personal goals. (Besides, they can always surf the Web for another position.) Gen Yers’ parents have ferried them around to tutors, classes, and sports and allowed them to have a say in decision making from a very early age. They’ve grown up thinking that they have the brains and the tools to make a direct impact on the world, and they expect their employers to be aware of this ambition. Gen Yers’ top three job requirements, according to Throop, are meaningful work that makes a difference, collaborating with committed coworkers who share their values, and meeting their personal goals. They’re not happy being just cogs in a machine, as their grandparents were, so they move around a lot, trying to find jobs that will meet their high standards for personal fulfillment.
Loyalty for a New Generation