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Across Sectors: Generations & Future Work-Life

Updated: Apr 26

Across Sectors is our blog series discussing common topics of discussion with a wide variety of our public, private, and non-profit clients.

Whether we're talking with a mid-sized credit union, a local utility company, or a non-profit animal welfare organization, staff retention is a constant topic of concern. It's not a surprise, considering we're going on three years of having less than one unemployed person per job opening here in the US.

Graph showing the number of unemployed persons per job opening
Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Lately, these conversations have often turned to the differences Leadership is starting to see in the youngest hires in the company. (Don't worry! We aren't here just to rag on Gen Z.)

These discussions led us to a recent book called Generations: The Real Differences Between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, and Silents - and What They Mean for America's Future  by psychologist and professor Jean M. Twenge, PhD. In Generations, Twenge investigates the differences between the five generations across many themes. Twenge's primary theory is that technological change, not shared major events, has been altering successive generations. These changes contribute to the long-run trends of increasing individualism and delays in how long a generation takes to progress through life stages.

As part of larger presentations for our clients, we created the table below to summarize our notes on some differences Twenge sees between Gen X and Millennials (who make up most of the workforce), and Gen Z. Of course, these are generalizations, and don't apply to every individual.

So what does this mean? Every organization is different - there is no single answer. But based on the conversations we've had with our clients, here are some questions to ask in your next Leadership Team meeting:

What is our demographic make up?

If you're already seeing a strong Gen Z showing, you may want to consider how quickly you update your retention policies.

What could Work-Life Integration look like at our organization?

While Millennials have previously placed firm boundaries to separate work and the rest of life (Work-Life Balance), Gen Z is more interested in respecting and blending work and personal needs (Work-Life Integration) with flexible policies like remote work, 4-day workweeks, or ideas like "Flex-Fridays", according to SHRM.

How could our organization change as younger employees come in?

Gen Z's current age range is about 12-27. As more of Gen Z enters the workforce (and more Baby Boomers and the very first of Gen X retire), organizations will change. To be prepared for the future, you Strategic Planning initiatives should include scenarios addressing the possible changes.

If you're ready to start planning for this, and the many other changes, coming to your workplace, reach out today.

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