Differences in Professional Expectations Across Generations

Post by
Phil Strazzulla
March 16, 2017

A few weeks ago, we co-hosted a great event with Universum around their recent Generations research which dives deep into what professionals and students of various generations hope, fear, and expect about their careers. With all the talk of millennials, and now Gen Z, it was great to have a trove of data to better understand what is really happening, and if these groups of people are so different.We did two events to talk through this information. One was at the new GE HQ in Boston in a small roundatable discussion with HR practioners from startups to Fortune 500, along with the career services offices of Harvard, MIT and Northeastern. Needless to say, it was a great discussion. Here's a quick video from the event:

The second event was a larger group at the Microsoft NERD center. We brought in Ed Nathanson, an expert on culture and talent acquisition, to help us lead the discussion.Here are some of the takeaways:

  • Most people won't be surprised to hear there are in fact large differences across generations. Gen Z has a lot more insecurities about their work performance having never worked before (the oldest of this generation is around 20 now). While Gen X is starting to think more and more about retirement.
  • That said, there are many similarities as well. All generations are focused on a workplace culture of integrity, and one that will allow them to develop and grow.
  • Freedom was a common theme across the generations when they wrote about what matters to them in an employer. While freedom means different things to people across the globe, we see this theme as a general reflection of the rise of the gig economy and the ability to work from home for many companies.
  • In our discussions with practitioners, it was surprising how few organizations had done research into their own candidate's behavior and journeys.
  • It was even more surprising to see how few companies had effectively tried to message to different demographics through talent communities, microsites, etc.

Overall, it was a lot of fun to dig into this data and have a rich discussion on why different groups felt one way or the other about their hopes, fears, etc.