Dr. Burris began his presentation by exploring some of the myths that surround the millennial generation. A generation is defined as the time needed to become an adult, generally 18-23 years:
Myth #1: The younger generation has no values; if they do have values, they are different from the values of older generations.
The Values survey has been conducted by the Pew Research Center each year for the last 40 years. The table to the right shows how each generation has similar values debunking the myth that younger generations have different values.
What is different is how those values are expressed.The cartoon on the left shows how the Boomer and Silent generation expressed the importance of family.
Versus how the Gen-X and Millennial generations express that same value.
Myth #2: Younger generations don’t respect their elders; older generations want unconditional obedience.
Older people talk about respect in terms of: give my opinions the weight they deserve (because of my wisdom and experience) and do as I say. Younger people characterize respect as listen to me and pay attention to what I have to say – don’t dismiss me because I am younger. Essentially, respect is an important value to both, but how it is expressed is different.
Across the board all generations wanted the following things:
Opportunity to advance
Learning and development
Better quality of life
However, how they obtain them is different as illustrated below:
Myth #3: Older generations fear change (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it); younger generations are narcissistic and want to change everything all the time.
The research indicates that narcissism is correlated with a person’s age, rather than the generation they are part of. The graph below shows that the number of people demonstrating narcisstic tendancies is pretty consistent over time.
However, when you look at the stage of life a person is in, you can see that narcisitic tendancies decline over time as illustrated by the second graph. This shows why younger generations appear to be more self-interested; it is a function of the stage of life rather than the generational attitudes they have.
Dr. Burris concluded his presentation with the General Social Survey results which demonstrated that what employees want from their work has been consistent for the last four decades. However, there is a demonstrated mismatch between what employers think motivates their employees and what actually does:
Many values across generations are similar yet the way each generation expresses these values differ. Many of the principles of engagement are consistent across generations. By focusing on underlying principles of motivation and tailoring policies, rewards and communication styles to specific generational audiences you can effectively engage employees to invest in their work.