If a candy bar can be ‘guaranteed to satisfy,’ why can’t your job? That’s the question on the minds of many 21-30 year olds, according to a study by leadership and training research company Leadership IQ.
“There’s a pretty direct correlation between age and workplace satisfaction, with the older the employees are, the more satisfied they are,” said Mark Murphy, Chairman and CEO of Leadership IQ. “And it’s a perfect correlation that increases as the age groups increase.”
Leadership IQ surveyed 11,244 employees from 21 to 70 in 872 public, private, business and healthcare organizations. Participants were asked questions about their boss, corporate culture and professional motivation. Respondents rated items on a 5-point scale from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree.
Some of the items included:
- I would recommend this company as a good place to work.
- If I shared my work problems with my direct boss, I know that he/she would respond constructively.
- I know exactly what actions I should undertake to fulfill the organization’s strategy and vision.
- I know whether my performance is where it should be.
- My direct boss recognizes my accomplishments with praise.
- My direct boss inspires me.
- My direct boss holds people accountable when they make mistakes.
- I am willing to make personal sacrifices to help the company succeed.
- I take ownership for solving problems, even if I did not create them.
Researchers found only 30 percent of workers in the 21-30 age group would strongly recommend their organization as a good place to work. On the other end of the age spectrum, 47 percent of workers ages 61-70 would recommend their organization.
So why the gap between age groups? Murphy says different age groups require managers to use different techniques, and they are more adept at motivating the older age groups.
The younger workers are looking for praise and reassurance, while the older workers want clear feedback on their work.
“It’s become a cliché to grumble about coddling and praising younger workers,” Murphy said. “But managers still don’t know how to do it. It may be the age of the managers or it may be their training, but they need to address it.”
At a time when companies are struggling to attract qualified employees as the Baby Boomers are set to retire, an organization cannot afford to alienate the younger population.
“There is a high cost to turnover and you can only let your workforce age so much before it’s gone,” Murphy adds.
Murphy suggests changing the managers’ training to give them the skills and tools they need to fix the problem.
The younger generations have grown up with the Internet. They are used to instant gratification. Older generations may be able to better handle delayed feedback, but the younger workers aren’t used to it.
“Motivation is different now than it was in the past,” he said. “But those younger workers are also the ones with an increased willingness to innovate. Necessity is the mother of invention — if they can’t find a solution, they’ll make their own.”
Perhaps parenting is to blame. Maybe it’s the technology. Murphy notes that those are macro problems in a society and something managers can’t do much to change. They can, however, have an impact at the micro level when it comes to changing the way they motivate individual employees.
“It not all that hard to manage to those different needs and praise doesn’t cost anything,” he added. “It can be done.”
Leadership IQ is a training and research center that teaches executive and management best practices. For more information, click here.