Magazine article HRMagazine

We Are All Gen Z-And Y and X

Magazine article HRMagazine

We Are All Gen Z-And Y and X

Article excerpt

Back in 1990, a 24-year-old HR clerk made a bold suggestion during a departmental lunch. That person was me. I proposed that our company amend its leave policies to allow parents to use sick time to care for their ill children.

Silence blanketed the room. Forks froze in midair, and eyeballs darted back and forth as my co-workers sought visual confirmation that they had heard me correctly. I could not have generated a more dramatic response if I had suggested that we cover our heads with whipped cream. But that was life in 1990 for a young upstart from Generation X. We were viewed as cynical individualists and slackers-and we were so very different from our elders.

Or were we?

I was the youngest person in what was then called the personnel department, but only by a year or two. In reality, the difference in our points of view wasn't generational; it was situational. I was the only one in our group who had young children at home.

That brings me to a question that's been nagging me ever since I was introduced to generational studies 15 years ago: Is an employee's age a reliable factor in determining the most effective HR or management strategies? I say no, and here's why: Age brackets are not as important to what motivates us at work as what I think of as "stage" brackets, which are those phases of life (such as relationship-building, home-starting, child-rearing, elder-caregiving, hobbypursuing, career-growing and soulsearching) that can occur for different people at different times.

Is Gen Z Really That Different?

Generation Z (those born in 2000 or after) includes an estimated 61 million members according to census data, and this youngest working generation has everyone talking. In recent months, numerous articles have tumbled into my inbox declaring that members of Generation Z are quite distinct. Yet from the descriptions given, I, too, appear to be from this generation, as are many people I know! I base my conclusion on the following reported Generation Z traits and their corresponding realities.

Trait 1: They want to enter the workforce early and receive on-the-job training in lieu of traditional college degrees. According to a 2015 study by Universum, an international research and consulting firm, this conservative approach parallels their moderate financial outlook.

Reality: Considering the current U.S. economic climate, rampant student loan debt and a shifting labor landscape in which many college graduates are struggling to secure jobs that match their majors, this generation's pragmatism reflects a societal shift or a stage bracket that applies to anyone with similar concerns, regardless of age. In fact, I also took this nontraditional route when I entered the workforce.

Trait 2: They value opportunities for advancement over being well-compensated. A 2014 study by Millennial Branding, a Generation Y research and consulting firm, and by Randstad, an HR services company, compared the workplace preferences of the two youngest generations. According to the Millennial Branding website, 42 percent of Generation Y finds money to be the most effective motivator, yet only 28 percent of Generation Z identifies money as their primary incentive, choosing the opportunity for advancement as their greatest motivating factor (34 percent).

Reality: This difference in money as a motivator most likely is due to Millennials being at a different stage in their lives as many seek to buy homes and start families. Likewise, money motivates employees of all ages who are in a high-cost stage of life, whereas advancement will be more motivating to anyone in a career-building stage. …

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