Are Generational Categories Meaningful Distinctions for Workforce Management? | National Academies Press

Workforce Trends

Although there has been much interest over the years in studying the needs and behaviors of different generations in the workforce, a new report suggests that generational categorizations cannot adequately inform workforce management decisions. Instead of relying on generational stereotypes, employers and managers should focus on individuals’ work needs. This 150- page eBook report suggests that varied values and behaviors among workers are more likely to reflect “differences in their ages, career stages, job experiences, and general changes in society and work conditions, rather than their generations.” Said differently, the report’s assessment of the scientific literature found that individuals from the same generation are just as likely to be different from one another as they are from individuals born in other generations. Several weeks back, I made a post based on a study by Columbia Business School that found that generational categorizations of workers are too broad to be meaningful. Instead, the authors suggest that individuals’ life preferences are shown to be strongly related to the economic environment in which they came of age (e.g., those who come of age in an economic downturn will place a higher value on compensation for years to come). Both studies provide useful insights for understanding worker preferences.

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