10 December 2015

HR Matters – A comparison of workplace expectations between generations

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A study entitled Workforce 2020: SAP/Oxford Economics Researchwas recently published by Success Factors. It concluded that essentially, when it comes to workplace expectations, the millennial generation has more in common with older generations than is often assumed.


There is often a misunderstanding that the millennial generation’s wants and needs in the workplace are different from previous generations. However, this study shows that expectations in the workplace are far more similar between millennials and non-millennials than is commonly expected.


The chart above (from Workforce 2020: SAP/Oxford Economics Research) summarises this nicely. As can be seen, a rank of items that are important to both sections of the workforce indicate that there is very much in common between these two groups.

What this means is that employers have to be careful about making fundamental changes to an organisation, or over-tout a specific millennial engagement strategy, to accommodate a misplaced assumption about appealing to millennials. This may potentially be detrimental to employee engagement.

Ensuring that an organisation has good succession planning and a good workforce development strategy for younger workers is obviously important, but employers should be wary of shining the spotlight on how different millennials are. Employers often attach notoriety to the younger generation being  more demanding of their workplaces or having a short attention span, and therefore erroneously treating them differently, or pandering to perceived interests. This is unnecessary, and may often cause friction in the workplace.

As much as millennials are more connected technologically and have more mobility across countries and sectors, the fundamental expectations of what it means to be human and enjoy one’s work remains unchanged. These core tenets of the workplace – values, ethics and remuneration should be applied across all generations.

The report mentioned above summarises this point nicely: “In the end, employees of all ages want fairness and opportunity.”


Su grew up dreaming of being a journalist, dodging bullets and gunfire with a camera thrust in front of her reporting from a war zone. Having realised that she is not really as agile as she thought, she has settled for dodging cockroaches in metropolitan Sydney as her adrenaline fix. Su is inquisitive and loves a good challenge, which is why she has chosen to produce conferences at Akolade. In her spare time, Su likes to read, drink green tea, and fantasise about making the world a better place; getting rid of the need for war journalists entirely.

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