Gen What? Debunking Age-based Myths about Worker Preferences | McKinsey & Company |

Workforce Trends

Many organizations segment their workforce into various categories to better understand the needs and preferences of workers. One lens through which worker preferences have been viewed is “generation”—the different age groups or cohorts of people currently employed or seeking employment in a particular industry or organization. But as noted in this article, work preferences appear to be more similar than different across age groups. The data show that employees of all ages are looking for many of the same things at work and largely quit their jobs or start somewhere new for similar reasons: 1) inadequate compensation, 2) lack of career development and advancement, and 3) uncaring leadership. As with their reasons for quitting, workers’ top reasons for taking a new job are consistent across age groups: 1) compensation, career development, meaningful work, and workplace flexibility (Exhibit 2). One notable difference is that once employees are in a job, the retention factors that motivate Gen Zers (those 18-24) to stay aren’t the same as those for other age groups. Gen Z ranks flexibility, career development, meaningful work, and a safe, supportive work environment as more important factors than compensation when they decide to stay with their current employers. This resource can be used as ONE of MANY references to inform an organization’s understanding of worker preferences. As a bonus, this 150-page ebook report— Are Generational Categories Meaningful Distinctions for Workforce Management?—by the National Academy of Sciences, provides an overview of the scientific research on the topic.