Learning professionals are all too familiar with the prevailing profile of Generation Y. Its members expect autonomy, crave praise, and become frustrated easily. While those characteristics may ring true, a new survey reveals that older workers are nearly as discontented with their employers.
Leadership IQ, a Washington, D.C.- based leadership training company, polled more than 11,000 United States employees across a wide range of ages. As might be expected, the 21 to 30 age group registered the most discontent with their employers. While the older generation was the more satisfied, all generations expressed some level of dissatisfaction. The rate of discontent was almost directly related to age - the younger generations expressed the lowest satisfaction rates.
The survey asked a variety of questions ranging from whether employees would recommend their employer as a good place to work to whether the boss recognizes accomplishments with praise and if the boss holds people accountable for mistakes.
"Employees are not asking for million dollar salaries," says Mark Murphy, CEO of Leadership IQ. "They want attention and focus from managers."
Organizations are so focused on measuring quarterly success that they forgo investments that could keep employees content. Such short-term priorities have become the norm to the point where employees no longer see multiple options.
"Later never comes for most organizations," Murphy says. "As bad as retention is, the only reason it isn't any worse is because employees ask, 'Where else can I go?'"
No generation is happy with their current employer. The low level of satisfaction is a sign of the times, Murphy believes, and it began with the retrenchment that occurred in the 1980s with regular layoffs.
Unlike many development professionals who are seeking to build bridges between the so-called attention-starved Generation Y and the assumed reluctance of managers to lend praise, Murphy suggested that discontentment among young professionals is universal and not unique to the contemporary age. Very little research has been conducted comparing worker satisfaction rates during different eras.
"It may be simply because they are in the infancy of their careers," he explains. "Were 21- to 30-year-olds in the 1950s any different?"
Unfortunately, many managers are not learning the intangible skills necessary to manage a staff. Organizations do not emphasize them in promotions, and they are infrequently addressed in education, says Murphy.
"Most MBA programs teach students how to read a profit and loss statement or develop a marketing plan," Murphy says. "They don't teach people skills. The vast majority of organizations don't invest in management skills and tools so that managers can motivate their staff."