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A second look at generational differences in the workforce: implications for HR and talent management.


Go to any newsstand and you'll read that issues abound as disgruntled dis·grun·tle  
tr.v. dis·grun·tled, dis·grun·tling, dis·grun·tles
To make discontented.

[dis- + gruntle, to grumble (from Middle English gruntelen; see
 employees from different age groups try to work together. Claims proliferate pro·lif·er·ate
To grow or multiply by rapidly producing new tissue, parts, cells, or offspring.
 like: "These younger employees don't have any values." "My older co-workers don't care about new technologies." "Older employees are far more loyal and hard working than these young kids." If one believes the media, there are constant rumblings of worker conflict between the generations.

A few years ago in this journal, Frank Giancola (2006) investigated whether such claims have any merit. He examined a number of generational research studies, white papers and popular press articles and noted many inconsistencies in assumptions and "facts." For example, Giancola discovered that authors frequently do not agree on the definition of each generation, the number of generations present in the workforce, or the applicability of generational differences to minority groups. He concluded that the findings "lend credence to the notion that the generational approach may be more popular culture than social science" (Giancola, 2006, p. 33).

Four years after the publication of Giancola's article and the popularity of generational differences in the media and practitioner literature shows no signs of waning. Searching by specific generational terms such as "Gen Y See generation X. ," "Xers," or "Boomers" resulted in a list of more than 10,000 articles, 962 appearing in peer-reviewed journals.

The prevailing belief is that generational differences exist in the workforce, creating additional HR demands for organizations. For example, Gorman, Nelson and Glassman (2004) asserted that the arrival of the Gen Ys represents one of the three most powerful forces affecting business today--the other two being the rise of the information economy and the growing belief that HR or talent management needs to be an integral part of a company's overall business strategy.

In this article, we update and extend the Giancola's review by conducting a comprehensive and fresh examination of the scientific literature on generational differences and compare that evidence with the discussion held by the popular press. If HR and talent management professionals are to change their strategies and practices to accommodate generational differences, we believe it is important to identify which of these claims are based on science and which are fiction. Our review sought answers to the following two questions:

1. Are there significant differences in attitudes, values, expectations and behaviors between the generations?

2. If so, what are the implications of these generational differences for HR and corporate talent management practices?

The Concept of "Generations"

The term generation has been defined in a number of ways. One of the most accepted definitions refers to a generation as "a group of people or cohorts who share birth years and experiences as they move through time together" (Kupperschmidt, 2000, p. 66). This definition, as well as many others, indicates that generational units or cohorts tend to share a common outlook (e.g., views, values, and attitudes) on the basis of possessing a set of common life experiences (Edmunds & Turner, 2005; Ryder, 1965). The effects of these life experiences are seen as fairly stable over their lives (Smola & Sutton, 2002) and can be used to distinguish one generation from another (Jurkiewicz & Brown, 1998).

Depending on which author you read, the precise age ranges and names for each generation can vary. Generally, there is agreement on four distinct generations in the workforce today, including:

* Matures- born between 1929 and 1945; a 16-year period.

* Boomers- born between 1946 and 1964; an 18-year period.

* Xers- born between 1965 and 1979; a 14-year period.

Generation Y, or the Millennials; born in 1980 and extending into the late 1990s, to be followed by Generation Z.

Some authors have chosen to break the generations down even further, such as" Swingers" and "World War II-ers" (Matures) or "Early Xers" and "Late Xers" (see D'Amato & Herzfeldt, 2008; Smola & Sutton, 2002). Often the second half of the baby boom has been distinguished from the first half, those born before 1955 and after.

In absolute numbers, the largest group is Generation Y. There are currently nearly 80 million Gen Ys in the total U.S. population, as opposed to approximately 77 million Boomers. In 2009, there were approximately 150 million employees in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area.  workforce (U.S. Department of Labor, 2009). As Exhibit 1 indicates, in 2010, estimates show that roughly five percent of these employees are considered Matures, 38 percent Boomers, 32 percent Xers, and 25 percent Generation Ys.

Further, the number of Gen Ys in the workforce will increase markedly. By 2020, Matures are projected to occupy only one percent of the workforce and Boomers 22 percent. The Xers will show the least change over the next decade, remaining at approximately 30 percent of the workforce in 2020 (a loss of less than fewer percent). We also note that four generations in the workforce will be maintained, because a new generation of employees (Generation Z, born in the late 1990s) is projected to begin entering the workforce around 2020.

The Generational Literature

We initially highlighted the generational claims from the popular press and media. We then reviewed the findings from the peer reviewed literature--both those results supporting and refuting generational differences. Finally, we aligned the claims made by popular press with the supporting empirical evidence, assessing both the level of support and empirical rigor rigor /rig·or/ (rig´er) [L.] chill; rigidity.

rigor mor´tis  the stiffening of a dead body accompanying depletion of adenosine triphosphate in the muscle fibers.


The Popular Press

The popular press and media (Time, Newsweek, Business Week, et al) tend to take a current-events approach to explaining generations, and focus on what they see as homogeneity Homogeneity

The degree to which items are similar.
 within the generational cohorts and emphasize vast differences between them. For example, popular media often assert that the Matures were born and raised during difficult times, including the Great Depression, the Second World War and the birth of the Nuclear Age. The Boomers, in contrast, began their lives during times of optimism, surrounded by healthy economies and inundated in·un·date  
tr.v. in·un·dat·ed, in·un·dat·ing, in·un·dates
1. To cover with water, especially floodwaters.

 with abundant employment opportunities. The Xers saw Watergate, Vietnam, the beginning of corporate downsizing (1) Converting mainframe and mini-based systems to client/server LANs.

(2) To reduce equipment and associated costs by switching to a less-expensive system.

(jargon) downsizing
, and the prelude to diversity of all types {from alternative lifestyles to the rapid influx of immigrants). Finally, Gen Y had to deal with globalization globalization

Process by which the experience of everyday life, marked by the diffusion of commodities and ideas, is becoming standardized around the world. Factors that have contributed to globalization include increasingly sophisticated communications and transportation
 and global warming global warming, the gradual increase of the temperature of the earth's lower atmosphere as a result of the increase in greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution. , as well as the advent of the Internet, cell phones, text messaging Sending short messages to a smartphone, pager, PDA or other handheld device. Text messaging implies sending short messages generally no more than a couple of hundred characters in length. , and social media Web sites.

The popular press suggests that these significant life experiences largely explain why the generations express different characteristics in the workplace. These differences fall into two major categories: Career Management and Organizational Loyalty, and Life Values and Work Ethic work ethic
A set of values based on the moral virtues of hard work and diligence.

work ethic

a belief in the moral value of work

Career Management and Organizational Loyalty.

Media report that Xers and Gen Ys are likely to change their careers as much as six or seven times during their lifetime and probably will pursue higher education multiple times and for longer periods (Burmeister, 2009; Dolezalek, 2007). They contend that Xers place a great deal of value on flexible work arrangements, long-term marketability and professional growth (Conlin, 2003; Gutner, 2002). Generation Y, in contrast, tends to show loyalty as long as it is accomplishing its goals, then moves on for a new challenge (Kerslake, 2005). The press also alleges that job security is not a motivator for Gen Yers, because they are more interested in finding meaning from their work and self-development (Logan, 2008). Finally, many media stories allege To state, recite, assert, or charge the existence of particular facts in a Pleading or an indictment; to make an allegation.

allege v.
 that the poor saving habits of the Boomers, in conjunction with plummeting stocks during the last few years, have caused Boomers to delay retirement (which may be construed as organizational loyalty) (Gandel, 2009).

Life Values and Work Ethic.

Another consistent claim in the popular press portrays each generation as motivated by a different mixture of life values and work ethics (Waxer wax·er  
One that polishes with or applies wax.
, 2009). For illustration, Boomers tend to work hard and remain loyal to their employers; whereas, Xers emphasize personal fulfillment and development (Crainer & Dearlove, 1999) and have been labeled the "what's in it for me?" generation (Karp, Sirias, & Arnold, 1999). Boomers often proclaim pro·claim  
tr.v. pro·claimed, pro·claim·ing, pro·claims
1. To announce officially and publicly; declare. See Synonyms at announce.

 that Xers represent the "slacker" or "lazy" generation (Chatzky & Weisser, 2002; Tulgan, 2000) and are more interested in "taking" than "giving" at work. In contrast, Generation Y is motivated more by social responsibility and "green" initiatives (English, 2009). Supposedly, Boomers also maintain less work/life balance than Xers (Krug, 1998).

If these differences truly exist, then business managers and HR professionals ought to provide differentiated solutions to recruit, engage and retain their workers. For example, approaches to training, rewards, feedback and coaching should vary by generation to support these different characteristics. Social media should be used for recruitment of Gen Y. Other suggestions include different ways to do work/life flexibility, technology and communications. We would expect that as technology changes over time, that different technologies would be used, though they may not reflect a need for change in strategy.

However, we argue that if the generations are not significantly different in their approaches to career management and organizational loyalty, and life values and work ethic, then changing HR strategies and tactics may not be necessary after all. We decided to test these assumptions in a rigorous look at the peerreviewed literature (Management Review, The Journal of Managerial Psychology Managerial Psychology is one course or subdiscipline of Psychology or Management, focusing the understanding the psychological insight for the managers. See also
  • Organizational studies
  • Kurt Lewin
  • Abraham Maslow
  • Frederick Winslow Taylor
, etc.).

The Peer-Reviewed Literature

In our research, we first looked at those studies finding differences across the four generations, and then examined those studies that found no differences across generations.

Empirical Research Noun 1. empirical research - an empirical search for knowledge
inquiry, research, enquiry - a search for knowledge; "their pottery deserves more research than it has received"
 Supporting Generational Differences.

Several studies provide moderate support for some of the purported intergenerational in·ter·gen·er·a·tion·al  
Being or occurring between generations: "These social-insurance programs are intergenerational and all
 differences. There were a few reported differences in how the generations viewed the concept of Career Management and Organizational Loyalty. In a Belgium sample, Dries, Pepermans and De Kerpel (2008) found that career types varied across generations, although the preference for different types of careers showed little differences. They also noted that Matures and Gen Ys in this sample placed a higher level of importance on job security as a career influence than did Boomers or Gen Xers (Dries et al., 2008).

In a sample of European managers, D'Amato and Herzfeldt (2008) found that for younger managers (i.e., Xers), organizational commitment mediated the relationship between learning orientation and intention to stay with the organization. For older managers (Boomers and Early Xers), commitment mediated the relationship between leadership development intentions and intention to stay. Overall, younger generations generally demonstrated higher levels of learning orientation and lower organizational commitment. Interestingly, based on a sample of IT employees in the United States, Boomers seem to feel more compelled to stay with an organization because they see few other choices; whereas, Xers stay because it seems like the right thing to do (Davis, Pawlowski, & Houston, 2006).

Beyond the articles that addressed career-related differences, nearly all of them investigated the extent to which each generation possesses different Work-related Values and Attitudes. In an examination of data from 1.4 million adults who took psychological assessments since the 1930s, Twenge and Campbell (2008) observed that Gen Ys had higher self-esteem, narcissism narcissism (närsĭs`ĭzəm), Freudian term, drawn from the Greek myth of Narcissus, indicating an exclusive self-absorption. In psychoanalysis, narcissism is considered a normal stage in the development of children. , anxiety, and depression, and a lower need for social approval and more external locus of control locus of control
A theoretical construct designed to assess a person's perceived control over his or her own behavior. The classification internal locus indicates that the person feels in control of events; external locus
 than older generations.

In contrast, using a sample of MBA students representing various industries, Smola and Sutton (2002) found mixed results in the attitudes of Gen Xers and Boomers toward work. They reported no significant differences between Boomers and Gen Xers on a "pride of craftsmanship Craftsmanship

a first-rate carver in wood. [Rom. Lit.: Vergil Eclogues, iii. 37.]


skillful builder of Jason’s Argo. [Gk. Myth.: Walsh Classical, 29]


 scale." To the contrary, they did find there were significant differences between the generations on a "desirability of work outcomes scale"--Gen Xers desire to be promoted more quickly than Boomers. Boomers and Xers also differed on the scale measuring the "moral importance of work."

Yu and Miller (2003) also found some significant differences between Boomers and Xers on work values, attitudes and expectations in the Taiwanese manufacturing industry. However, they found no differences within the education sector in Taiwan, suggesting that the nature of the industry may be an important consideration when assessing generational differences.

Lyons, Higgins, and Duxbury (2007) examined basic human value differences between the generations using the Schwartz Value Survey. They observed differences between Millennials and Generation Xers with respect to "openness to change" and "self-enhancement." Finally, Cennamo and Gardner (2008) found that Boomers reported enhanced person-organization fit between extrinsic EVIDENCE, EXTRINSIC. External evidence, or that which is not contained in the body of an agreement, contract, and the like.
     2. It is a general rule that extrinsic evidence cannot be admitted to contradict, explain, vary or change the terms of a contract or of a
 values and status values relative to Xers or Gen Ys.

Collectively, the above studies offer some evidence of generational differences in career and work-related values and attitudes, although the specific samples utilized and variables measured limit the generalizability of the findings to other geographic regions or work groups. These studies, in and of themselves, are not conclusive on the issue of generational differences.

Empirical Research Refuting Generational Differences.

Most of the research studies we located found little or no support for generational differences. For example, many researchers have examined the career focus, employer loyalty and factors that motivate the different generational cohorts. Xers and Gen Ys were found to have the same top work motivators-continuous employment and opportunities for promotion; Boomers and Matures were motivated by similar factors (Montana & Lenaghan, 1999; Montana & Petit PETIT, sometimes corrupted into petty. A French word signifying little, small. It is frequently used, as petit larceny, petit jury, petit treason.

PETIT, TREASON, English law. The killing of a master by his servant; a husband by his wife; a superior by a secular or religious man.
, 2008). Yang and Guy (2006) also found little difference between the Boomers and Gen Xers in their appraisal of work motivation factors.

In addition, some research suggested the psychological contract may be stronger for younger employees than older ones, as they feel the burden of the reciprocal relationship more than older employees who "paid their debt" years ago (Schambach, 2001). Wesner and Miller (2008) found that when Boomers entered the workforce during the 1960s and 1970s, they held similar needs for meaningful work and successful careers as Millennials do today. Johnson and Lopes (2008) concluded that level of commitment remains the same across generations, although younger generations may accept a higher level of risk in their early career paths.

Wong, Gardiner, Lang, and Coulon (2008) found little support for generational stereotypes on motivational driver and personality differences across Australian Boomers, Xers and Gen Ys. Although Smola and Sutton (2002) reported some significant differences between Gen X See generation X.  and Boomers, De Meuse, Bergmann and Lester (2001) observed no differences in the manner in which the psychological contract was perceived across generations. They found all participants in their study viewed the emotional connection between employers and employees had substantially decreased during the past 50 years.

A few older studies reported mixed results in their examination of differences in work values and attitudes throughout the generations, including the Protestant work ethic The Protestant work ethic, or sometimes called the Puritan work ethic, is a Calvinist value emphasizing the necessity of constant labor in a person's calling as a sign of personal salvation.  (Furnham, 1982; Tang tang, in zoology
tang: see butterfly fish.
 & Tzeng, 1992) and work attitudes such as pride in craftsmanship (Cherrington, 1980). Some of the studies found that work values change as workers progress through their career stages (Rhodes, 1983), although others found no changes in work values over time (Singer & Abramson, 1973).

More recently, Boomers and Xers were found to share similar perceptions of leadership, organizational climate and work attitudes (Hart, Schembri, Bell, & Armstrong, 2003). Another current study found that Xers and Gen Ys varied little in their attitude toward leaders (Levy, Carroll, Francoeur, & Logue, 2005). In a study of online classrooms, the research suggested that there are no significant generational differences in student responses to online classrooms, including perceived satisfaction, perceived learning and motivation toward online learning systems (Stapleton, Wen, Starrett, & Kilburn, 2007). Jurkiewicz (2000) observed that employees in the public sector held cross-generational differences on only three of 15 factors. Xers were higher in "freedom from supervision;" whereas, Boomers were higher on "chance to learn new things" and "freedom from pressures to conform both on and off the job." The lack of significant differences on the other 12 factors suggests that there are far more similarities than differences between these two generations.

One of the largest generational research studies occurred within the last few years at the Center for Creative Leadership. Summarized in a recent book by J.J. Deal (2007), a sample of 3,200 U.S. participants was surveyed on 10 different work-related areas (e.g., values, interpersonal trust, organizational politics). Overall, Deal's research found little support for generational differences. When differences emerged with regard to workplace conflict, they typically stemmed from other sources. Deal concluded that "often underlying the specific complaints is the belief that the individual isn't doing things as he or she should--with the attendant assumption that the person complaining gets to decide how someone should behave" (2007, p. 211).

Differences? Not So Much

In sum, our review of the 26 peer-reviewed studies found few consistent differences among the generations in the workplace. Only eight of those studies reported some support for generational differences; 18 did not.

We decided to look at those eight studies more closely (see Exhibit 2). When we examine the level of scientific support for these differences, the findings are quite illuminating. No study completely supported differences across all four generations. For example, many of the studies investigated differences between only two or three generations, which limited our ability to be conclusive about the multigenerational workforce.

In addition, when we consider the degree of scientific rigor of those studies reporting support, the findings are diminished further. For instance, the research identifying generational differences is cross-sectional in nature rather than longitudinal. That is, researchers contrasted 50-year-old Boomers with 30-year-old Xers to ascertain how they behave today. It is plausible that a comparison of generations at similar ages would lead to different conclusions. Also, many of the studies were limited to a specific geographic region or industry, reducing inferences that can be drawn for other regions or industries. In sum, the current body of peer-reviewed research does not support the popular media proclaiming a workplace crisis due to vast generational differences.

Implications for HR and Talent Management

Over the years, scientific research has found the accuracy of inferring broad-sweeping conclusions across all individuals based on group identity is extremely difficult (e.g., not all tall people make good basketball players). Drawing conclusions regarding performance across all jobs based on an individual's group identity is even more tenuous tenuous Intensive care adjective Referring to a 'touch-and-go,' uncertain, or otherwise 'iffy' clinical situation . Given the variability among people, within generational group individual differences likely are far greater than across generational group differences.

Based on the peer-reviewed research conducted thus far, there appears to be very few meaningful differences between the generations in the workplace. Therefore, what can we conclude about the discrepancy between empirical research and popular media assertions? What counsel can we offer to HR and talent management professionals about how to respond to the four generations present in the workplace today? If there are such few differences, should the multigenerational presence be a concern at all?

Implication #1: Managing Confirmed Generational Differences

Much of the focus of generational research, and popular media commentary has been on the negative impact of having a multigenerational workforce. HR professionals are implored to bolster retention efforts, diversify recruitment initiatives and expand communication techniques to quell quell  
tr.v. quelled, quell·ing, quells
1. To put down forcibly; suppress: Police quelled the riot.

 the ramifications ramifications nplAuswirkungen pl  of the "frustrated frus·trate  
tr.v. frus·trat·ed, frus·trat·ing, frus·trates
a. To prevent from accomplishing a purpose or fulfilling a desire; thwart:
" and "hard-to-engage" Gen Ys or Xers. However, even if there only are a few demonstrated differences between generational cohorts, the changing demographic base of the workforce may have a positive impact on the collective skills, capabilities and experiences available to employers. Workforce diversity has been influenced by a number of factors, including changes in cultural norms, new migratory migratory /mi·gra·to·ry/ (mi´grah-tor?e)
1. roving or wandering.

2. of, pertaining to, or characterized by migration; undergoing periodic migration.


emanating from or pertaining to migration.
 patterns, higher ethnic minority birth rates, and the increased percentage of women in organizations (Giancola, 2006).

There is much potential for creativity and innovation to be enhanced by the expanded range of generational experiences represented in the workforce. Clausing, Kurtz, Prendeville and Walt (2003) asserted that embracing the diversity of a multigenerational workforce helps create a satisfying and rewarding work environment. Suggestions have been made to capitalize on Cap´i`tal`ize on`   

v. t. 1. To turn (an opportunity) to one's advantage; to take advantage of (a situation); to profit from; as, to capitalize on an opponent's mistakes s>.
 the unique interests of younger generations to increase creativity and productivity (Birkinshaw & Crainer, 2008). Others have explored the role that cross-cultural experiences play in enhancing the creativity of employees (Kayee Leung, Maddux, Galinsky, & Chi-yue, 2008). Although the differences among generations appear to be exaggerated greatly, there likely are many benefits in harnessing the few that exist as drivers of creativity and innovation within organizations.

Implication #2: Dealing with Intergenerational Conflict An intergenerational conflict is either a conflict situation between teenagers and adults or a more abstract conflict between two generations, which often involves all inclusive prejudices against another generation.  in the Workplace

An argument promulgated prom·ul·gate  
tr.v. prom·ul·gat·ed, prom·ul·gat·ing, prom·ul·gates
1. To make known (a decree, for example) by public declaration; announce officially. See Synonyms at announce.

 by the popular press--particularly, by consulting firms specializing in multigenerational management--is that the generanons do not get along. It claims that there is conflict in the workforce due to intergenerational misperceptions, misunderstandings and miscommunication mis·com·mu·ni·ca·tion  
1. Lack of clear or adequate communication.

2. An unclear or inadequate communication.
. In total, this discord Discord
See also Confusion.


demon of discord. [Occultism: Jobes, 93]

discord, apple of

caused conflict among goddesses; Trojan War ultimate result. [Gk. Myth.
 reduces employee productivity, hampers teamwork and innovation, and ultimately impacts the company's bottom line. Because we uncovered only one empirical study that directly examined intergenerational conflict in the business setting (see Deal, 2007), we cannot glean glean  
v. gleaned, glean·ing, gleans

To gather grain left behind by reapers.
1. To gather (grain) left behind by reapers.

 firm conclusions. Nevertheless, prudent HR practice would suggest that managers should be sensitive to all potential conflicts in diverse workgroups, whether caused by generational differences or simply the differences in life stages and needs between the 20 year old and the 50 year old.

Implication #3: Monitoring the Risk of Generational Stereotypes

At this point, there is little scientific evidence to suggest that generational differences are prominent within organizations. Nonetheless, there is potential for the mere perception of generational differences to cause damage in the workforce. Managers who possess stereotypes of generational cohorts, whether accurate or not, may unknowingly create factions within an organization. As with other stereotypes, managers may consciously or unconsciously adopt attitudes, behaviors and expectations based on sweeping generalizations rather than reality. As managers' behaviors influence their peers and direct reports, they perpetuate per·pet·u·ate  
tr.v. per·pet·u·at·ed, per·pet·u·at·ing, per·pet·u·ates
1. To cause to continue indefinitely; make perpetual.

 inaccuracies in their thinking. Organizational leaders, and in particular HR professionals, should be on the look out for it. A concerted effort to engender en·gen·der  
v. en·gen·dered, en·gen·der·ing, en·gen·ders
1. To bring into existence; give rise to: "Every cloud engenders not a storm" 
 a culture that supports diversity of all types will help combat such stereotyping.

Implication #4: Preparing for Major Shifts in Talent

Another implication may not result so much from the generational differences themselves, but rather the shift of demographics projected to occur during the next few decades. The massive exodus of Matures and Boomers and the concomitant concomitant /con·com·i·tant/ (kon-kom´i-tant) accompanying; accessory; joined with another.
concomitant adjective Accompanying, accessory, joined with another
 increase of Xers, Ys and eventually Zs will cause a greater strain on talent management practices than had occurred in previous decades when retirement and succession occurred more gradually. These changing workforce demographics will have a major impact on the corporate pipeline of talent. Workforce planners are concerned about a shortage of talented executives to fill the roles of senior leaders when incumbents retire. There also will be a substantial loss of critical organizational knowledge due to the sheer volume of Matures and Boomers retiring (Summerfield, 2006).

Consequently, HR professionals and talent management experts alike must understand what is necessary to develop and retain Xers and Gen Ys, regardless of prominent differences or similarities. The managers and executives of tomorrow will come directly from these two generations of employees. HR professionals should assess their workforce planning Strategic Workforce Planning involves analyzing and forecasting the talent that companies need to execute their business strategy, proactively rather than reactively, it is a critical strategic activity, enabling the organization to identify, develop and sustain the workforce  procedures to ensure proper succession strategies are now in place. Additionally, they need to prepare for the potential loss of critical knowledge held by these retiring industry veterans.


Implication #5: Examining Cross-Cultural Generational Differences

With increased globalization, workforce planners are becoming more concerned with how to employ talent management practices cross-culturally. Unfortunately, drawing global HR implications from generational differences research at this point is very difficult. National culture has received only a limited focus in generational cohort research. In part, the nature of a generational cohort is culture-specific (i.e., the shared developmental experiences of cohort members are typically associated with the unique history and culture of a particular region). Further, field research on cross-cultural differences has yielded insufficient sample sizes, especially in organizations with all four generations present in several geographic regions. Younger generations appear to be increasing in cultural diversity, which may skew (1) The misalignment of a document or punch card in the feed tray or hopper that prohibits it from being scanned or read properly.

(2) In facsimile, the difference in rectangularity between the received and transmitted page.
 findings when comparing across generations (Weiss, 2003).

There have been a few noteworthy studies attempting to address cross-cultural generational differences. Yu and Miller (2003) studied Western-oriented generational differences within Taiwan. They found some cohort differences between Boomers and Xers on work values, attitudes and expectations within the manufacturing industry but not in the education sector. Kueh and Voon (2007) examined the influence of Hofstede's cultural dimensions Cultural dimensions are the mostly psychological dimensions, or value constructs, which can be used to describe a specific culture. These are often used in Intercultural communication-/Cross-cultural communication-based research.

See also: Edward T.
 on Malaysian Gen Y consumers' expectations of service quality. Wong and colleagues (2008) focused on motivational and personality differences across Australian cohorts. However, there have been very few studies investigating cross-cultural generational differences. A lone exception is a study by Egri and Ralston (2004) that found that the value orientations of U.S. generations followed age-related patterns, while younger Chinese generations appear to have more entrepreneurial value orientations. We need much more research to determine whether the Western-centric generational differences noted by popular media will be substantiated across the globe.


The popular press and media contend there are distinct and powerful differences between the generations, and that these differences necessitate ne·ces·si·tate  
tr.v. ne·ces·si·tat·ed, ne·ces·si·tat·ing, ne·ces·si·tates
1. To make necessary or unavoidable.

2. To require or compel.
 differentiated talent management strategies. These differences generally are not supported by the empirical research we examined. The literature was fairly sparse with well-designed and scientifically grounded studies, and most of those studies focused on specific work-related variables (such as organizational commitment or personality variables).

Consequently, all conclusions regarding the impact of the four generations on HR and talent management strategies should be viewed cautiously. Researchers may yet find other factors responsible for the effects reported by the popular press and media. Nevertheless, companies should be fairly confident that the current "best practices" of HR and talent management systems have the capability to foster employee engagement, resolve conflict and enhance retention when implemented effectively--regardless of employee generations.


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New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
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n. Abbr. OR
A room equipped for performing surgical operations.
 Nurses Journal, 78, 373-379.

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Milton’s epic poem of man’s first disobedience. [Br. Lit.: Paradise Lost]

See : Epic
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Methodology Used in This Study

To determine if the popular media's claims have any scientific credibility, we conducted a thorough examination of sources on generational differences. Initially, we performed a search in Business Source Premier, PsychINFO and Academic Search Premier using terms such as "generational differences," "Boomers," and "Millennials" (as well as other generational label variants). We targeted two groups of articles: (a) those publications that appeared in the popular press and media, and (b) those studies that came from peer-reviewed scholarly journals. Many of the articles were excluded, because they investigated generational differences either in non-workplace settings or with regard to general business topics such as marketing. All remaining articles were considered if they examined generational differences from an organizational perspective. In addition, we included books if they presented seminal seminal /sem·i·nal/ (sem´i-n'l) pertaining to semen or to a seed.

Of, relating to, containing, or conveying semen or seed.
 ideas or scholarly research.

In an attempt to quantify the degree of scientific support for a generational claim by the media, we used a three-point scale, ranging from low (one [check]) to high (three [check][check][check][check]). A claim received one check when the measure of the variable in question was ill-defined or the result demonstrated was limited to differences across only two generational cohorts. Three checks were employed when the variable measured aligned closely with the media claim and the results generalized across all (or most) of the generations. In addition, the extent of scientific rigor was assessed for each study employing a 3-point scale. Similarly, the more checks denoted larger sample sizes, more psychometric psy·cho·met·rics  
n. (used with a sing. verb)
The branch of psychology that deals with the design, administration, and interpretation of quantitative tests for the measurement of psychological variables such as intelligence, aptitude, and
 soundness of measures, and a more rigorous research design.

Yu, H.-C., & Miller, E (2003). The generational gap and culture influence: A Taiwan empirical investigation. Cross Cultural Management, 10(3), 23-41.

Kenneth P. De Meuse is associate vice president of research at Lominger International. He has published articles on employee attitudes and organizational behavior in several leading professional journals. De Meuse has been featured in national publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Fortune, U.S. News & World Report, The New York Times, and USA Today for his expertise on the impact organizational change on the workforce.

Kevin J. Mlodzik is currently working to support the Intellectual Property Research & Development Team in Korn/Ferry's Leadership and Talent Consulting division. In particular, he supports the Lominger line of products. Mlodzik assists with thought leadership and product rollout initiatives.

Kenneth R De Meuse, Ph.D. and Kevin J. Mlodzik, Korn/Ferry Leadership and Talent Consulting

                 Claims Made by Popular      Empirical Support for
                 Media                       Claims

Career           * Gen Ys and Xers           Dries, Pepermans,
Management         change careers more       & De Kerpel (2008)
                   frequently and pursue
                   more education

                 * Boomers maintain less
                   work/life balance than
                   younger generations,
                   and may retire later

Organizational   * Gen Ys show loyalty       D'Amato & Herzfeldt
Loyalty            as long as they are       (2008)
                   accomplishing their

                 * Xers are more             Davis, Pawlowski,
                   committed to the right    & Houston (2006)
                   leader than to an

                 * Boomers are loyal at
                   the expense of self and

Motivation       * Gen Ys seek immediate     Twenge & Campbell (2008)

                 * Xers work for

                 * Boomers are workaholics
                   and expect to be

                 * Matures are dutiful
                   and self-sacrificing

Work Values      * Gen Ys value              Cennamo & Gardner (2008)
and Attitudes      self-development
                                             Lyons, Higgins,
                 * Xers value flexible       & Duxbury (2007)
                   work arrangements and
                   long term marketability   Smola & Sutton (2002)

                 * Boomers and Matures       Yu & Miller (2003)
                   value contributing to
                   the greater good of the

                 Empirical Support for
                 Claims                      Level of

Career           Dries, Pepermans,           [check]   [check]   []
Management       & De Kerpel (2008)

Organizational   D'Amato & Herzfeldt         [check]   [check]   []
Loyalty          (2008)

                 Davis, Pawlowski,           [check]   []        []
                 & Houston (2006)

Motivation       Twenge & Campbell (2008)    [check]   [check]   []

Work Values      Cennamo & Gardner (2008)    [check]   []        []
and Attitudes
                 Lyons, Higgins,             [check]   []        []
                 & Duxbury (2007)

                 Smola & Sutton (2002)       [check]   [check]   []

                 Yu & Miller (2003)          [check]   [check]   []

                 Empirical Support for
                 Claims                      Scientific

Career           Dries, Pepermans,           [check]   [check]   []
Management       & De Kerpel (2008)

Organizational   D'Amato & Herzfeldt         [check]   [check]   []
Loyalty          (2008)

                 Davis, Pawlowski,           [check]   []        []
                 & Houston (2006)

Motivation       Twenge & Campbell (2008)    [check]   []        []

Work Values      Cennamo & Gardner (2008)    [check]   [check]   []
and Attitudes
                 Lyons, Higgins,             [check]   []        []
                 & Duxbury (2007)

                 Smola & Sutton (2002)       [check]   [check]   []

                 Yu & Miller (2003)          [check]   [check]   []
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Author:De Meuse, Kenneth R.; Mlodzik, Kevin J.
Publication:People & Strategy
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2010
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