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Workplace Redefined Shifting Generational Attitudes During Economic Change 1
Shifting Generational Attitudes
During Economic Change
Workplace Redefined Shifting Generational Attitudes During Economic Change
Table of Contents
3 What the Generations Really Want: It’s Not so Different
6 Career Plans: Building Skills and Moving On
8 Ready to Retire … or Not?
10 Bridging the Generational Gaps
12 Hiring Managers Weigh in on Worker Productivity
14 Recession Lessons: Back to Basics
15 Survey Methodology and Demographics
16 About Robert Half
The ENIAC The XEROX® TV color The Rolodex The Hula Hoop® The IBM® E-mail starts Apollo 11 The Busicom
computer, Model A broadcasting is marketed is launched and Selectric as a way for astronauts desk calculator
completed in becomes the begins in in 1956 to sells for $1.98. typewriter, multiple users of take the first uses the first
1946, could fill a world’s first 1953. store business Twenty-five an influential a time-sharing walk on the commercial
small house from xerographic contact million were model of electric mainframe moon. microprocessor.
floor to ceiling. copier. information. sold in four typewriters, is computer to
months. unveiled in 1961. communicate.
Workplace Redefined Shifting Generational Attitudes During Economic Change 1
Has the Great Recession changed the perceptions of
multiple generations about the workplace? Has it re-
any of your staffing needs. For more information on
hiring and retention, visit roberthalf.com.
arranged their priorities and goals for their profession-
al lives? What issues concern them most? This report Generations We Surveyed
addresses the most notable changes in the workplace • Generation Y: Born primarily between 1979 and
in the wake of the recession and the shifting attitudes 1999, this generation’s oldest members, ages 21
of employees and employers in a changing economy. It to 31, are already in the workforce.
also shows that the experience of working through this
• Generation X: Born roughly between 1965 and
difficult period has served to unify generations.
1978, workers representing this generation range
Workplace Redefined is a research initiative that high- in age from 32 to 45 years.
lights key trends and provides timely advice to help • Baby Boomers: Born between 1946 and 1964,
you recruit and retain talented employee teams of all members of this generation range from 46 to
generations, both now and in the future. We hope you 64 years.
find it useful and invite you to contact us for help with
Modern fax MTV, an The Nintendo® Microsoft® IBM launches Sony introduces Google is Apple® Founded
machines American Entertainment releases its its ThinkPad its fifth-generation founded. Its name introduces in 2005,
become cable television System is earliest version of line of laptop era video game is a play on the the iPod®, an YouTube
feasible in network, launched to eager the Office suite computers. console, the word googol, the MP3 music becomes the
the workplace in launches in video game of productivity PlayStation. mathematical term player that fits world’s most
the mid-1970s. 1981. enthusiasts. applications. for a one followed in your pocket. popular online
by 100 zeros. video community.
Workplace Redefined Shifting Generational Attitudes During Economic Change 2
About the Research
This white paper summarizes data from a multigen-
erational study of currently employed workers in the
United States and Canada. Robert Half commissioned
a web survey of 1,453 working adults, including Findings
502 hiring managers, sampling men and women
from each generation. The purpose of the study was • Foosball Out; Salary, Benefits and Stability In
to gain insight into the various generations’ attitudes — Compensation, benefits and company stability are the top three factors for all generations
and opinions about the post-recession workplace when evaluating an employment opportunity.
and to compare the generational perspectives on:
• Healthcare and Time Off Are Prized Benefits
• Employment opportunities — These were cited as most important in determining job satisfaction for all generations.
• Job satisfaction • Many Intend to Seek Greener Pastures
• Multigenerational work teams — 40 percent of workers said they’re more inclined today to look for new
• Career plans opportunities outside their firms.
• Work environment preferences — 31 percent of employees plan to stay put and build tenure with their companies.
• Retirement plans • Retirement May Be on Hold
— 46 percent of people surveyed plan to work past the traditional retirement age.
• The Multigenerational Workplace Has Benefits and Challenges
— 43 percent of workers polled say that varying experience levels and areas of expertise
are the greatest benefits of a multigenerational workplace, but they cite differences in
work ethic and approach to work/life balance as the biggest challenges.
— 72 percent of hiring managers find it challenging to manage teams composed of
members of different generations.
• Hiring Managers Expect More Productivity
— 50 percent of managers polled expect their teams’ productivity levels to increase
as the economy recovers.
— 41 percent of hiring managers say they believe employees are working smarter.
— 33 percent of managers supplement their teams with project professionals during
1962 annual workload peaks.
The Chevrolet Impala is the top-selling car in the United States.
— 33 percent use interim professionals to help with major new projects.
Workplace Redefined Shifting Generational Attitudes During Economic Change 3
What the Generations
It’s Not so Different 1976
iCom launches the “Frugal
Floppy,” an 8-inch drive that
retails for $1,200.
Salary and Stability for Security’s Sake
Without question, recent economic conditions • To assist with recruitment and retention,
have sharpened workers’ focus on stability. Having consider flexible scheduling and/or tele-
witnessed firsthand the downturn’s impact on the
for Employers commuting – much-desired benefits for
jobless rate, those we surveyed place more weight • When recruiting candidates from all genera- all generations.
on jobs that offer greater financial security for the tions, emphasize your company’s competitive • If possible, try to keep compensation in line
future. In fact, all generations rank working for a salary and benefits, stability, and reputation. with or slightly above what competitors in
stable company and having a strong sense of job your market are paying. If raises are not
• To retain your best people, support their
security as most important in their current work possible, consider one-time bonuses.
professional goals and create opportunities
environment. In addition, baby boomers, Gen Xers
for training and career advancement. • Award bonuses as soon as you are able. If
and Gen Yers all prioritize salary, benefits and job
stability highest when evaluating an employment • Given that all generations rank dental care they are typically provided annually, consider
opportunity. among the top three benefits (see Page 5), splitting them into more frequent payouts
it could be a smart recruitment and retention throughout the year.
Generational Differences: strategy to provide this benefit if your company • Bonuses and other financial rewards aren’t
• For baby boomers, benefits and company stability doesn’t already. the only type of acknowledgement that mat-
surpass salary in level of importance. ters; consider offering on-the-spot awards,
• Gen Yers rank opportunities for advancement such as gift certificates or movie tickets.
and job title higher than do Gen Xers and
Workplace Redefined Shifting Generational Attitudes During Economic Change 4
Recession Lessons What Workers Value Most Keeping an Eye on the Prize
Employees were asked to rate the importance of Employees surveyed were asked to rate on a 10-
Survey respondents were asked to identify
the following work environment factors on a scale of point scale the importance of the following when
the most valuable career lesson they learned
one to 10 (one being least important and 10 being evaluating an employment offer (one being least
during the recession:
most important): important and 10 being most important):
• Gen Yer: “Focus on skills and knowledge develop-
ment to increase your value to your company.” Working for a
stable company 8.8 Salary 9.0
• Gen Xer: “Don’t take your job for granted.” Having a strong sense
of job security 8.8 Benefits 8.9
• Baby Boomer: “Stability is king.”
Having work/life balance 8.7 Company
Working with people I enjoy Opportunities for
8.6 professional growth/ 8.6
Working with a manager
I can respect and learn from 8.6
Company location 8.4
Having a short commute 7.5
Company leadership 8.0
state-of-the-art technology 7.1 Company reputation/
brand recognition 7.8
Working for a socially
responsible company 7.1 In-house training
Having a nice
Job title 6.7
1977 Diversity of
Hungarian Erno Rubik receives company's staff 6.1
a patent for a unique puzzle
constructed of interlocking Tuition reimbursement 6.1
cubes. Since then, more than
300 million Rubik’s Cubes® Company's charity/
have been sold. philanthropic efforts 5.8
Workplace Redefined Shifting Generational Attitudes During Economic Change 5
Healthcare and Time Off Are Top Benefits Employees were asked to rate how important the All Work, Little Pay?
Healthcare is a key concern. All generations rated following benefits and perks are as they pertain to Employees surveyed said they feel their compensa-
its importance to their overall job satisfaction at overall job satisfaction on a scale of one to 10 (one tion has not kept pace with the amount of work
9.1 out of 10, with 10 being most important. being least important and 10 being most important): they’re doing. More than one-third of workers
believe they have yet to be fairly compensated for
The second highest-ranking benefit was vacation/ Healthcare/extended*
9.1 the extra work they performed during leaner times.
paid time off at 9.0 on a scale of one to 10. The
Perhaps that’s why four in 10 professionals polled
long hours many professionals have put in during Vacation
(paid time off) 9.0 are inclined to seek new job opportunities as the
the recession are likely fueling the desire for time
off to recharge. economy improves.
Workers were asked if they think they are being fairly
8.3 compensated for having assumed a greater workload:
• 401(k) plans/Registered Retirement Savings program
Plans (RRSP) (in Canada) and bonus programs
rank higher with Gen Xers and baby boomers Bonuses 7.8
than with Gen Y workers.
Flexible work hours/
7.7 22% Yes 37% No
• Gen Y employees place more value on on-site telecommuting
perks (e.g., dry cleaning, fitness centers, cafeterias
or subsidized lunches), as well as subsidized plans 7.1
transportation, gym memberships and snacks or
Subsidized training/ 41% Workload
lunch, than other generations. education 6.9
*Unique to Canada
“Thirty years of life/work
experience and reputation will
always beat a recession.”
— Baby boomer survey respondent
Workplace Redefined Shifting Generational Attitudes During Economic Change 6
• More than one-third (36 percent) of Gen Yers
Career Plans: plan to look for new opportunities in their field.
• 30 percent of Gen Xers and even fewer baby
Building Skills and boomers (24 percent) plan to make a move.
Post-recession career plans:
Moving On Enhance my
Gen Y Gen X Baby Boomer
skill set 38%
Self-Improvement and Self-Marketing with my company 33%
If there’s one lesson employees learned from the
recession, it’s that having a variety of skills and Look for new
wearing many hats can be valuable sources of job 24%
security. Perhaps that’s why more than one-third of
all survey respondents plan to improve their skill sets Strive for a 24%
to become more marketable. As training becomes a promotion
greater focus, employers can benefit from providing 25%
opportunities for their teams to learn new skills, Work more 25%
hone existing ones and become more tech-savvy. 16%
Communication, customer service and project 20%
management are examples of areas in which Go back 19%
workers of all ages can improve. 10%
3M introduces Post-it® Notes, 20%
which create a whole new Seeking Greener Pastures Make a career 15%
category in the marketplace and Although job stability is highly prized, more than 12%
change people’s communication
and organization behavior forever.
twice as many workers surveyed say their experi- Work fewer 4%
ences during the downturn have made them more hours 4%
inclined to look for new job opportunities than those 6%
who are less likely to switch employers. 16%
Will not make
any changes 21%
Workplace Redefined Shifting Generational Attitudes During Economic Change 7
• Gen Yers, also known as Millennials, are eager • Many professionals want to build tenure with • Make retention of top performers a priority.
to seek promotions, but they also are most their firms, so offer assignments that allow them Let them know that, just as they were asked
likely to seek job opportunities elsewhere. to expand their skills and support their efforts at to make sacrifices during the downturn, they
Give them regular feedback and empower professional development (e.g., provide tuition can expect to be rewarded as conditions
them to take on roles that leverage their reimbursement, online training, time off to attend improve. You can also make the environment
strengths, such as leading a social networking seminars, workshops or conferences). Gen Xers more fun for all generations with pizza lunches
task force to promote the business’s products and boomers surveyed place more value on in- or ice cream socials, outings to sporting
or services. house training programs, and Gen Y and Gen X events or theaters, or philanthropic activities.
employees appreciate subsidized education.
Onward and Upward Measuring Employee Engagement Bring Back Bonuses!
Workers were asked whether the recession has Employees were asked how engaged they are in Following are the cut or reduced benefits/perks
made them more or less inclined to look for new job their work as a result of their experiences during the that employees want reinstated as the economy
opportunities outside their firms. Their responses: recession. Their responses: improves:
40% 28% 2. 401(k)/RRSP* matching programs
inclined engaged 3. Subsidized training/education
18% 18% 4. Profit-sharing plans
inclined engaged 5. Employee discounts
6. Free/subsidized snacks/lunches
7. Subsidized transportation
Workers to Employers: In what may come as a pleasant surprise, 28 percent Top responses shown. *Unique to Canada
Show Us the Money of employees feel more engaged in their jobs as a
In addition to staff cutbacks, many companies elimi- result of the recession. This number increases to
nated or decreased year-end and merit bonuses during 31 percent among U.S. respondents. This may be
the recession. Now, workers want to be rewarded because professionals have taken on new responsi-
for their efforts: Nearly one-third expect to see their bilities and faced challenges that weren’t previously
bonuses reinstated as the economy improves. part of their workday. As a result, employees in all
generations may feel more invested in their com-
Workplace Redefined Shifting Generational Attitudes During Economic Change 8
Ready to Retire … or Not?
Professionals of all generations have seen their
nest eggs affected by the global financial crisis. Not
surprisingly, 46 percent of respondents said they
plan to work past the traditional retirement age of 65 for Employers
(51 percent in the United States and 31 percent in
Canada), with 70 percent attributing this decision • All employees appreciate the option of
to the impact of the recession. Thirty-one percent flexible schedules, but consider offering
of workers say they are investing or saving more shorter hours, telecommuting or other
money toward retirement. alternative work arrangements that might
appeal to those nearing retirement age.
As employees strive to save more money, many will
remain in the workforce longer. Some professionals • If your firm offers attractive retirement
near retirement age may be attracted to shorter savings programs, be sure to highlight
workweeks or consulting arrangements. Companies those in all of your recruiting materials.
that wish to hire these experienced workers should • Work with your HR department to help
consider offering alternative work arrangements educate members of Generation Y, in
that allow these professionals to keep one foot in particular, about saving for retirement early
the workforce while also exploring their hobbies and in their careers and the resources your firm
1984 interests. may offer to help.
Apple launches the Macintosh® computer.
• Help employees save money by offering
Generational Differences: group discounts to services they use most,
• 54 percent of baby boomers plan to remain in the such as cell phone providers, dry cleaning,
workforce past retirement age. fitness centers and public transportation.
• 45 percent of U.S. boomers say the recession has • Some boomers may appreciate the option
had a very strong impact on their decision to work to take on a transitional role prior to
longer, compared to 11 percent in Canada. retiring, such as a consultant or trainer, to
• Just over one-quarter (27 percent) of Gen Yers transfer their knowledge to less-experienced
place strong blame on the recession for their employees.
decision to stay longer in the workforce.
Workplace Redefined Shifting Generational Attitudes During Economic Change 9
“No matter what, I should always keep talking to people and
make sure I have opened up all possible career opportunities,
even if they are future opportunities.”
— Gen Y survey respondent
Postponing Retirement The Recession’s Impact Changes in Saving Patterns
Respondents on whether they expect to work past Workers weigh in on how much of an impact this Employees were asked if they are saving/investing
the traditional retirement age of 65: recession has had on their decision to work past more or less for retirement since the recession:
Gen Y Gen X Baby Boomer the traditional retirement age:
Gen Y Gen X Baby Boomer
United States Canada
Very strong 39%
Yes 46% More 34%
Somewhat of 34%
an impact 52%
No change 45%
No 27% 24%
No impact 45%
32% Less 20%
Don't 27% 26%
Workplace Redefined Shifting Generational Attitudes During Economic Change 10
Baby boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Yers all agree: Generations Joining Forces
There are benefits and challenges to working on Employees identify top benefits of working with
multigenerational teams. Communication styles or multiple generations:
even the use of technology may vary, but ultimately,
multigenerational teams learn from each other, and 1. Brings together people of varying
bringing together diverse groups increases productivity. experience levels 1984
The world’s first commercial
Hiring managers also interviewed for the survey had 2. Allows for greater diversity of project teams portable cell phone becomes
available to consumers.
strong opinions about managing a multigenerational 3. Allows for mentoring opportunities
workforce. Seventy-two percent said it was some-
what or very challenging, while just 20 percent felt Differing Values on Work
it wasn’t challenging. Respondents reveal the greatest challenges
of working with multiple generations:
No Generation Gap Here:
1. Different work ethic and approach to
• 43 percent of workers surveyed say multigenera- work/life balance Communication styles or even
tional teams bring together people of varying
experience levels to provide knowledge in 2. Conflicting communication styles the use of technology may vary,
specific areas. 3. Different points of view make it harder to
but ultimately, multigenerational
• 27 percent of those we surveyed say working with
multiple generations allows for greater diversity of teams learn from each other.
project teams so all points of view are heard.
• 45 percent of all generations say the greatest
challenge is that each generation has a different
work ethic and approach to work/life balance.
• 20 percent of survey respondents say the biggest
challenge is conflicting communication styles.
• 35 percent say working on multigenerational
teams has led to increased productivity.
Workplace Redefined Shifting Generational Attitudes During Economic Change 11
Together We Can Do More Managing Multigenerational Teams
Professionals were asked how working on a multi- Managers were asked how challenging it is manag-
generational team affects their productivity: ing a team consisting of multiple generations.
productivity 15% Very
Decreases 9% Does 57%
productivity not apply Somewhat
20% Not The World Wide Web allows
challenging links to be made to information
anywhere on the Internet.
• Encourage project teams to use a variety
of communication protocols to facilitate
“Work hard, even when no one
for Employers workflow, including use of e-mail, instant is watching.”
messaging, group meetings and one-on-
one discussions. — Gen X survey respondent
• Set up informal cross-training or coaching
sessions, so employees of different generations • Don’t overlook the value of mentoring
can share their respective areas of expertise. programs as a learning and teaching
opportunity for everyone. A Gen Yer, for
• Encourage staff members to offer differ- example, may volunteer to mentor some-
ing points of view and innovative solutions one who has less experience using Twitter
to business challenges. The best ideas may and Facebook in the workplace.
come from an employee right out of college, a
veteran with 20 years of work experience • Determine the real reason managing a
or someone in between. multigenerational team may be challenging.
Is it a difference in experience levels, work
• Assist employees in developing project ethic or personalities? Consider an off-site
workflows or processes that accommodate team-building exercise to promote better
differing work styles. Some employees may synergies.
leverage collaboration tools such as SharePoint®,
while others prefer more traditional styles of
Workplace Redefined Shifting Generational Attitudes During Economic Change 12
Was There a ‘Recession Effect’?
• 50 percent of hiring managers said they expect
Hiring Managers Weigh in their teams’ productivity levels to increase as the
on Worker Productivity
• Of that number, 41 percent said their employees
are working smarter; 19 percent attributed produc-
tivity gains to employees working longer hours.
• 22 percent of managers surveyed are hiring
additional staff or bringing in project support to
boost their teams’ productivity levels.
Like employees, hiring managers have learned some
valuable lessons from the recession, most notably its • Among the 5 percent of hiring managers who
impact on productivity. The downsizings of the past foresee a decrease in productivity, 60 percent
two years have resulted in remaining employees attribute it to staff burnout.
working longer hours and, for some, experiencing
Hiring Managers Call in the Reinforcements
burnout. Despite this, more hiring managers said they
expect their teams’ productivity levels to increase To help maintain productivity during challenging
as the economy improves because employees have times, many companies have relied on temporary
Research In Motion® launches the professionals. This trend will likely continue as firms
BlackBerry® smartphone. learned to work smarter. Companies also have relied
on project or interim professionals to help core staff strive to staff more efficiently and avoid future layoffs.
get through lean times. • Since the recession, 24 percent of employers
With more professionals deferring retirement and surveyed have increased their use of temporary
remaining on the job longer, the workforce will con- and project professionals.
tinue to be comprised of at least three generations. • 33 percent of respondents use project
But 78 percent of employees agree productivity has professionals during peak workload periods.
not suffered because the workforce is becoming • 33 percent of managers polled rely on interim
increasingly multigenerational. help for major new projects.
• 27 percent of managers use temporary and
“Loyalty to your company pays off, even though the results might not project professionals as a buffer to help existing
be apparent for a while.” employees manage rising workloads.
— Baby boomer survey respondent
Workplace Redefined Shifting Generational Attitudes During Economic Change 13
A Team Effort
Production Boost a Boon The Efficiency Factor Running on Empty
Hiring managers were asked if they expect their Managers cite the primary reason they expect Managers reveal the primary reason they expect
teams’ productivity levels to increase, decrease their teams’ productivity levels to increase: their teams’ productivity levels to decrease:
or remain the same post-recession:
1. Employees are working smarter. 1. Employee burnout
2. They are hiring additional staff or bringing in 2. Staff cutbacks
50% project support.
Increase 3. Employee turnover
3. Employees are working longer hours.
Upping Interim Support A Helping Hand “The people in your workplace
How hiring managers’ use of temporary or project Reasons hiring managers have used temporary or
professionals has changed since the recession: project professionals in their companies*: really make or break your work
Assist during annual
experience. Treating them well
24% peak work periods
Increased Assist with major has huge rewards.”
new projects 33%
Alleviate rising workloads — Baby boomer survey respondent
of existing employees 27%
Decreased Access skills that
don't exist internally
Evaluate as potential
full-time employees 23%
*Multiple responses permitted
Workplace Redefined Shifting Generational Attitudes During Economic Change 14
Back to Basics
One thing the recession has shown us is that the to seek new job opportunities. Others will opt to
generations are not that different when it comes to remain in their current jobs and build their skill sets
the workplace. Baby boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Yers to make themselves more valuable to their employers.
share a common desire for stability, more money
For hiring managers, recruitment and retention
and healthcare coverage – all elements of a secure
efforts should be based on giving employees what
future. Yet their experiences during a difficult
The business networking site they value most: competitive salaries and meaningful
economic period have had a strong impact on their
LinkedIn is launched and now has benefits, opportunities for advancement, and a sense
more than 65 million members views and perceptions about the workplace. They
that their jobs will remain secure.
worldwide. have a greater awareness of what’s most important
to them, both personally and professionally, and what The most forward-thinking employers clearly under-
they need from their employers. stand their future is tied to their ability to retain the
best people and leverage the unique contributions
Although Gen Yers have certainly learned a hard
of a multigenerational workforce. No matter how
lesson about the employment market, a significant
economic conditions shift, now is the time to start
number of them, as well as other generations, intend
rewarding the efforts of individuals among all gen-
erations. Companies that actively develop attractive
employee programs and identify clear career paths
for their top performers will be prepared for growth
as the business climate improves.
“I’m thankful I have a job at all. My father was laid off from a large
company . . . that put everything in perspective for me.”
— Gen Y survey respondent
Workplace Redefined Shifting Generational Attitudes During Economic Change 15
and Demographics 2004
The social networking site
Facebook launches. It now has
more than 400 million active
users and is growing.
The information in this report is based on a survey
developed by Robert Half and conducted by an
independent research firm. It includes a total of 1,453 Female 737
web interviews of employed professionals in North Total 1,453
America between 21 and 64 years of age (716 males 2006
Total employed workers surveyed includes 502 hiring managers
and 737 females), including 502 hiring managers. Twitter launches, enabling users
Members of the baby boomer generation (approximate to send and read tweets of up to
ages 46 to 64 years old) and Generation X (approxi-
mate ages 32 to 45 years old) are employed full-time
and have college degrees. Members of Generation Y
surveyed (approximate ages 21 to 31 years old) are
employed full-time or part-time and have college
degrees or are currently attending college.
“It pays to be with a company or within a field of work that can offer
job stability and security.”
— Gen Y survey respondent
Workplace Redefined Shifting Generational Attitudes During Economic Change 16
About Robert Half
Founded in 1948, Robert Half is the world’s first and
largest specialized staffing firm, with more than 360
offices worldwide. Our company regularly appears on
FORTUNE® magazine’s list of the “World’s Most
Admired Companies.” Our professional staffing divi-
sions include Accountemps®, Robert Half® Finance &
Accounting and Robert Half® Management Resources,
for temporary, full-time and senior-level project
professionals, respectively, in the fields of accounting
and finance; OfficeTeam®, for highly skilled office and
administrative support professionals; Robert Half®
Technology, for project and full-time technology
professionals; Robert Half® Legal, for project and
full-time staffing of lawyers, paralegals and legal
support personnel; and The Creative Group®, for
creative, advertising, marketing, web and public
relations professionals. For more information about
the specialized staffing and recruitment divisions of
Robert Half, visit roberthalf.com.