Search form

Cliché and reality: new findings on the generational debate

October 25, 2017

When promoting their employees, companies should consider age less and the individual person more. The reason for this is that the generations are more similar in terms of their needs than previously thought, although they see themselves as being vastly different. This is the key finding of a study conducted by scientists at Jacobs University recently published in the German HR and management magazine “Wirtschaftspsychologie aktuell”.

Younger employees of Generation Y (born between 1980 and 2000) are said to be leisure-oriented. Baby boomers, those over 50, in contrast are security-oriented and not as technologically savvy. And the generation in the middle, Generation X, is regarded as ambitious and results-oriented. Psychologists Prof. Christian Stamov Roßnagel and Bror Giesenbauer from Jacobs University and Andreas Mürdter from Daimler AG wanted to find out if there was any truth to these stereotypes. They surveyed employees of all age groups of the vehicle manufacturer for work-related attitudes towards age.

One of the key results was that each generation attributes widely differing work-related preferences to the other generations. However, in the self-assessment, all generations indicated very similar preferences. The generations therefore regard themselves as being very different but they are actually very similar.

However, it is important to note that the dissimilarity of preferences is significantly greater within the generations than between the generations – individual preferences are therefore largely independent of age and tend to depend more on factors such as personality.

Job satisfaction and the possibility of making a contribution are most important to them all. Small differences were only seen from the third ranking. Opportunities for learning and further education are important to Generation Y; in contrast, Generation X and the baby boomers regard professionalism as important.

When making specific decisions, such as who will be nominated for further education or who will be entrusted with an IT project, companies should focus on individual capabilities rather than age, say the researchers. Individual employees should also be encouraged to review their attitude towards age, as age stereotypes often result in reduced performance. They influence what employees expect from each other and from themselves. Companies are therefore well advised to emphasize the commonalities between the generations and encourage all employees to learn from each other.

More information:
Questions will be answered by:
Prof. Dr. Christian Stamov Roßnagel | Professor of Organizational Behavior Psychology & Methods c.stamovrossnagel [at] | Tel.: +49 421 200-4770