The Cambridge Dictionary (2009) defines values as “The beliefs people have about what is right and wrong and what is most important in life, which control their behaviour”. Attitudes are “The manner, disposition, feeling or position with regard to a person or thing; tendency or orientation” as defined by Dictionary. com (2009). Since these are based on individual beliefs and feelings no two generational cohorts will have the same attitudes or values towards their work. Lyon (2005) states “Generational cohorts are groups of individuals who were born during the same time period and who experienced similar events during their formative years”.
These common life experiences create cohesiveness in values, attitudes and beliefs distinct to each generation and stay reasonably constant through the cohort’s lifetime. Generation Y are mostly the children of baby boomers and were born between the years of 1980 and 1994. Key characteristics of this group are they are more open to change than previous generations and are most influenced by their peers and friends. They are career focused and highly loyal in relationships (Schiffman, Bednall, O’Cass, Paldino, Ward and Kanuk. 2008).
This group of 20-somethings value constant learning experiences and new challenges in the work place. They also place importance upon the opportunity for growth. In particular Generation Y wants to start at the top of or to be at least making their way up the corporate ladder in no longer than six months into their job (NAS Insights. 2006a). These ideals portray the Generation Y cohort as a hard working and fairly ambitious group yet it does not mean that they like to work long hours. Furthermore they value flexible work arrangements as this enables them to have more time for social activities outside of work.
They place more importance on this value then they do on money and will consider leaving a higher paid job for somewhere with more flexibility (Pozzi. 2008). With Generation Y being more open to change, they are the cohort that will change jobs more often than others. They do not intend to be at any one job for an extended period of time. In addition to being hard working, Generation Y favour getting the job done by themselves rather than working in groups, as teamwork is not a value held highly by this group (Trunk. 2007).
Feedback and guidance is a value regarded as fairly important to this group. They expect some form of acknowledgement and gratification once a task has been completed. Generation Y values corporate loyalty in the form of good relationships with co-workers and a friendly working environment. Meaningful work and the opportunity to make some kind of a difference are significant to this cohort as they are more inspired and motivated by a company working towards a creditable cause then a company’s history of corporate success (Vitality Newspaper.
2007). Generation X were born between the years of 1965 and 1979. Key characteristics of this group include being one of the most educated generations and being slower to start a family. They will reject the values of older co workers and job satisfaction is typically more important to them then the salary they earn. They also believe it is important to enjoy life (Schiffman. et al. 2008). Swift (2008) explains that this cohort has high levels of commitment and are the least likely to move from job to job.
Though they are highly committed, Generation X tends to place much higher priority on personal and family related goals rather than career related goals. They are more reluctant to compromise or make trade offs than any other generation. It is also particularly important to them to have a variety of responsibilities at work (Scanlon. 2005). Furthermore this cohort values the opportunity to advance in their workplace and competitive compensation and benefits (Erickson. 2008). They place importance upon these values, which play a significant role when choosing employment.
Generation X values flexible work arrangements, they want to be able to have a choice of when and where they work. This way they can have more time to spend with the family, which goes hand in hand with their value of prioritising family before work. They also distrust the loyalty of their corporations and government control over anything. Work-wise Generation X values having some form of input in the decision making process and they place importance upon developing additional knowledge or skills throughout their work (NAS Insights. 2006b).