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What Drives Employees in Light of Generation Change

Posted by Teresa Casero on March 2, 2016


If our community defines itself by the fact that the individual can develop him or herself, then it is necessary to ask: What is suitable for the individual? People are more individual than ever and strive to reach that which personally matches them. The management models used by many companies are however oriented towards the outdated concept that a company is like a pyramid and that an incentive scheme is necessary in order for employees to perform. But companies are not pyramids; instead they are process organizations. 

The shortage of skilled workers and employee turnover have lead to a situation where companies increasingly have to make an effort to reach the members of Generation Y, which sociologists define as including those young people born after 1980. They are replacing Generation X – the so-called baby boomers. Scientists make a distinction between the two groups because they display significant changes in attitude. So it is that self-actualization and development opportunities play a considerably larger role for the members of Generation Y; they are not focused solely on their careers and they do not measure their success exclusively by how high their salaries are. The quantitative survey “Self-image and Perception of Others of the Emerging Generation of Young Professionals” conducted by Egon Zehnder International and the Berlin think tank stiftung neue verantwortung came to the conclusion that the top three motivation factors for Generation Y are “pleasure in the activity”, “personal development” and “a sense of purpose on the job”. By way of contrast, only a few of the participants rated “power” and an “international setting” as important. It’s striking how much importance is given to factors that belong to intrinsic motivation. The results of Medienfabrik embrace’s study “Career Meets Meaning”, in which 3,633 career-oriented students from twelve different areas of study of the career network careerloft were surveyed, are similar. The conclusion? The arrival of Generation Y heralds a radical change in values, one which affects both the ideals of future skilled personnel as well as the relationship between work and leisure time.

A further synonym used to describe those born after 1980 is “digital natives”. They grew up with cultural technology that has played a major role in shaping their behavior and attitudes. HR officers have been coming to terms for some time with the requirements and needs of digital natives. Employer branding, company culture and management style are all now supposed to attract and motivate individuals who have never even known a world without the Internet and digital communication. It seems to be clear what distinguishes these digital natives from their predecessors: freedom, independence, an appetite for risk and permanent interconnectedness are the characteristics attributed to the representatives of this age group.

In many cases this will necessitate an adjustment of the competency model applied for the evaluation of management personnel up until now. Whereas in the past above all the so-called hard skills, such as strategic capabilities or an orientation towards results, were in the foreground when it came to competency assessment, the soft factors will now become increasingly more important. Soft skills are commonly considered to be difficult to measure and are often neglected. But indeed anyone who aims to come up with an approach to management development that includes Generation Y as an integral part of today’s competency models and training offers will also have to grapple with the subject. For this reason, to a greater degree the concept of inclusion, and not diversity, should serve to guide management’s actions. According to an Egon Zehnder survey, the majority of workers would like to have a company culture in which diversity and individuality are given space to unfold in everyday work life and one in which differences are valued and used for the benefit of all. Further, they would like to be recognized individually based on their abilities and led accordingly. 

Where once Goethe believed “If you demand duties from people and don’t want to afford them rights, then you have to pay them well”, today good wages alone have long since ceased to be enough to inspire performance. And the baby boomers are already insisting on their own rights. “Waiting a whole year for feedback from your boss is not going to increase your motivation and is downright absurd,” says Christoph Thoma from the business consultancy Kienbaum.

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Topics: Management & Leadership, HR Solutions

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