Value Congruence Between Baby Boomers And Millennials
Definitions and Explanations in Research
There is some minor disagreement over the definitions of Baby Boomer and Millennial generations in the academic research. For instance, Murphy, Gibson & Greenwood (2010) in their research define Baby Boomers as those born between the years 1946 and 1964 and Millennials as those 76 million people born between 1980 to the present, while Rawlins, Indvik and Johnson (2008) define Millennials as those 81 million people born from 1982 to the present. In addition, Andert (2011) defines Millennials as those people born during 1980 and 2000.
Apart from this disagreement, the academic research describes the two generations in similar terms. The various researchers use different terms to describe similar characteristics. For instance, Loroz (2006) explains the behavior of Millennials as motivated by materialism while Murphy, Gibson & Greenwood (2010) explain their behavior as motivated by the desire for a comfortable life. Twenge (2010) also explains that Generation Y people place a higher value on leisure than the Baby Boomer and Generation X generations. Other research describes Generation Y in terms of capabilities. For example, Hershatter & Epstein (2010) describe Generation Y in terms of a high level of digital immersion, the ability to create a great volume of content, multitask effectively and to think in non-linear ways.
The Baby Boomer generation is also described in similar ways in the various studies. Murphy, Gibson & Greenwood (2010) describe the Baby Boomers as having a high need for family security, inner harmony and health. In addition, Loroz (2006) describes them as having lower levels of materialism and higher levels of religiosity compared with Generation Y Egri and Ralston (2004) describe Baby Boomers as having a high level of self-transcendence but not significantly higher than other generations such as Generation X
Analysis of Key Arguments in Research
There is no major difference between the arguments put forward by different authors. Almost all the authors suggest that Baby Boomers and Millennials share s number of values in common with one another than they do with other generation cohorts such as the Silent Generation and Generation X, although some difference in values does exist between the two generations. The authors suggest that Generation Y employees require different strategies to keep them motivated and productive. Hershatter & Epstein (2010) suggest that Generation Y employees require much explicit instruction and higher levels of structure to be productive. They feel intimidated by uncertainty as they have been used to organizations making great effort at accommodating them.
Rawlins, Indvik and Johnson (2008) also report that 17% of Generation Y university students report a preference for goal orientation while 16% valued creativity and innovation. Murphy, Gibson & Greenwood (2010) also state that the desire for freedom depends on the individual's level in the organizational hierarchy and not on the generational cohort. A study by Andert (2011) reveals that in contrast to Baby Boomers in the workplace who prefer ambition in their leader, Millennials most prefer a leader who is caring. Andert (2011) argues that this is due to the 'rise of the child' phenomenon that put these Millennials at the center of the life of the community as children. Andert's study (2011) also argues that both Baby Boomers and Millennials can be motivated by the use of alternating leadership at the workplace.
Twenge (2010) argues that Millennial employees are difficult to motivate compared to other generations. They place a high value on leisure and also value extrinsic factors such as salary more highly than intrinsic factors. Rawlins, Indvik and Johnson (2008) also report that 30% of the respondents in their study were unwilling to work more than 40 hours a week, while only 21% were willing to work more than 50 hours a week.
Analysis of Common Themes in Research
The common themes in the academic research on Baby Boomers and Millennials focus on workplace issues. Because of the difference in values and general outlook, different strategies are required by managers to motivate and manage employees belonging to these two generations. Murphy, Gibson & Greenwood (2010) discuss the differences in management styles that can be attributed to generational differences. They also discuss how generational differences among non-management employees pose a great challenge to managing a diverse workforce in the twenty-first century. Andert (2011) recommends alternating leadership as a means of creating synergies through different generations in the workplace. Both Baby Boomers and Millennials value equality, freedom and democratic practices in the workplace. However, Millennials may not be motivated to put in a great effort if doing so disturbs their work-life balance. This point is the theme of Twenge's (2010) study where she discusses the importance of leisure and work-life balance to Millennial employees. Loroz (2006) also discusses the value of materialism among Millennial as consumers but also states that they are not motivated by image alone but also value functional aspects of the products they purchase.
Rawlins, Indvik and Johnson (2008) discuss the issues employers need to keep in mind when attracting Millennials as prospective employees. Their needs for security, work-life balance and high extrinsic rewards are highlighted in their study. Hershatter & Epstein (2010) also discuss how the Millennials' dependence and ease with technology makes them both efficient at gathering information and unable to validate its usefulness. Egri and Ralston (2004) shed some light on the Baby Boomer generation by describing their high value for conservation, order and stability compared with Generation X employees. This likely explains the claim in some of the studies that Baby Boomers and Generation Y workers may get along better with each other than with generation X employees.
Key Findings from Literature Review
The key findings from the literature review are that as the Millenial generation enters the workforce, managers need to employ a different set of techniques and strategies for motivating, developing and retaining them for the long-term. The research suggests that Generation Y employees exhibit similar levels of job satisfaction as employees from earlier generations (Twenge, 2010). However, they do require higher levels of stimulation to maintain interest. This explains why they place a high value on leisure and work-life balance compared with their predecessors in the workplace. They also value explicit instruction and a prescribed structure and path for attaining their goals. Therefore, managers find that they spend a lot of time orienting new employees and may find it frustrating to answer their queries (Hershatter & Epstein, 2010).
The research shows ample scope for building synergies between Baby Boomers and Millennials at the workplace. Although there is a difference in the desired leadership styles between them, organizations can build synergies by institutionalizing alternating leadership by tapping in to the value for freedom and democratic values among Baby Boomers and Millennials. Another important finding emerges from the research of Murphy, Gibson & Greenwood (2010) where it appears that the managerial as well as non-managerial working styles differ across generations because of a difference in value preferences. Employees from the Millennial generation can be provided with options like flexible work timings, telecommuting, growth and learning opportunities, generous pay and benefits packages to maintain their job satisfaction levels. It emerges that Millennials do not cost more as employees but need a different set of incentives and management styles to ensure performance.
Application to Real-Life Workplace Environment
A real-life experience where I can apply the findings from the research is one with one of my co-workers who belongs to the Baby Boomer generation. Both of us work together at the same department and I was assigned to his supervision during my first few weeks at work. He had a pleasant and friendly personality and this greatly helped to put me at ease in a new environment. A few of my other friends who had joined along with me but had been assigned to younger supervisors belonging to the Generation X took some time in finding a level of comfort with their supervisors. I found I was able to ask questions freely to my supervisor because he was keen to share his experiences with me. Both of us placed a high value on generosity and love because he always took out the time to explain things to me. This experience is in line with the research finding that Millennials and Baby Boomers share most values in common as compared with people from Generation X who tend to be more cynical of people and organizations.
My experience also validates the finding that Millennials represent the 'rise of the child' and are used to frequent attention and concern for their needs. I also experienced that I had a high need for reassurance and needed to learn about the way things work in the organization. My supervisor was supportive of my interest but at times he noted that I was trying to learn too much at one time, which would prevent me from being very productive. I felt that he could not appreciate my enthusiasm but I also respected his opinion. Contrary to the opinions…