Generation Y Employees Compared to Other Generations

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A generation, or a generational cohort, is as a group born in the same defined period of years that have been exposed to similar societal and historical life events during critical stages of their formative development (Schaie, 1965). Members of a generation learn similar responses to social and environmental stimuli and develop a shared set of value systems and ways of interpreting events. The external forces that influence the creation of shared value systems differ from one generation to the next, leading to identifiable differences in the way each generation reacts to authority, their work-related values and what they will do to satisfy their values (Gursoy et al., 2008). Lack of agreement on the defining life events for a generation (for example, regional events that impact some more than others) has led to a concomitant lack of agreement on the precise start and end years for each generation that is currently in the hospitality workforce: Gen Y, Gen X and the Baby Boomers. Nevertheless, it is useful for the purposes of categorization to define the period of years that identifies each generation.

After reviewing a large range of sources, including academic journals, popular blogs and trade publications, the following classifications were used: Gen Y: born between 1980 and 2000; Gen X: born between 1965 and 1978; Baby Boomers: born between 1945 and 1964. In many developed countries around the world, Gen Y is much larger than the previous generation Gen X, and is approaching the size of the Baby Boomer cohort (McCrindle, 2010; Sutton Bell & Narz; 2007). As Gen Y employees start to make up an increasingly larger percentage of the workforce, the impact on the hospitality industry, with its propensity to hire younger workers, is logically more acute.

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Wong et al. (2008) describe work values as what employees consider being “right” and what attitudes are considered to be appropriate. Wong et al. (2008) established that generations have different personalities, which influence the work-related values they uphold. Kalleberg (1977) defines work-related values as “the conceptions of what is desirable that individuals hold with respect to their work activity, they reflect the individual’s awareness of the conditions he or she seeks from the work situation, and they regulate his or her actions in pursuit of that condition” (Kalleberg,1977). Work-related values are thus what people see as desirable values and behavior in relation to work. These work-related values influence the behavior of that person and regulate their actions. Work-related values are important to HR management since these values influence the management desired.

Wong et al. (2008) used six scales to measure personality. These scales are related to work-related values and tell us how people feel about these values and what the differences are. These scales will be used as part of the basis of the interview and questionnaire later on in this research. Wong et al. (2008) considered these six scales to be related to personality traits that influence work-related values. These are; achieving, affiliate, optimistic, variety-seeking, independent-minded and conscientious. Achieving focuses on the ambition and the focus on the career, as well as the desired level of being handed challenges and goals. The second scale named as an affiliate is concerned with the social level of the person, how much do the generation members like to be around other people and how much will they be missed when not around. Optimistic is the third scale discussed by Wong et al. (2008). This is concerned with the perspective of a person, how positive their outlook is. Variety-seeking has to do with the level of variety that a person is seeking for in their work. Being independent-minded measures how much a person has their own views and ideas and the degree to which the person is influenced by a group. The last scale is named as conscientious, the degree to which a person sees through tasks and the time management concerned with fulfilling these tasks.

Next to personality drivers, Wong et al. (2008) also investigated motivational differences of generations and found that these were in place. Together with the personality scales understanding these scales will help HR management in understanding what motivates their employees and what is needed from them. These motivational scales are also used as a basis for the interviews and questionnaires later on in this research. Again, six scales were chosen for measurement. These are; power, immersion, easy and security, progression, and personal growth (Wong et al., 2008 p. 883-884).

The first scale known as power is concerned with the level of power and authority desired. The second scale of immersion looks at the level of motivation one has for work that requires more than the usual working hours. The third scale of ease and security looks at the motivation that contextual factors like the level of job security and the work environment can contain. The scale of progression is concerned with the motivation that one has to progress (i.e. promotions). The fifth scale of personal growth looks at the motivation that is gained from offering training and development.

Shacklock & Brunetto (2005) researched the factors which motivate people to retire, which means that not all factors can be considered relevant for the research of Generation Y, since this generation is not even close to retiring. However, some of the factors discussed in by them are also applicable to working employees. Three categories are applicable to generation Y, namely; financial factors, intrinsic factors and organizational policies and practices (Shacklock & Brunetto, 2005). Financial factors include rewards and compensation. Intrinsic factors concentrate on the level of enjoyment in the work. Organizational policies and practices focuses on the policies and practices an organization has in place or should have in place to satisfy its employees. These factors will also be used as part of the measurement tool for this research.

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