According to a study conducted by MetLife Mature Market Institute, organized in alliance with Boston Colleges Sloan Center on Aging & Work, the decline of our economy has had more impact psychologically on young adults than it has on older workers from the Baby Boomer and Traditionalist generations. This studys results were compiled into the report, Engaging the 21st Century Multi-Generational Workforce.
The main goal of the study was to discover if generational differences were a factor in the area of employee engagement. This theory was proven to be true. There is a distinctive difference in what impacts different employees. While the information as to what will affect different generations of employees is an excellent resource in itself, it is also fascinating to learn how different groups of employees are braving the economic upheaval.
Employees age 26 and younger (Generation Y) and age 27 to 42 (Generation X) revealed a decline in engagement, while those over 43 showed very little change. This anomaly may be because younger employees have not been through similar tough times, while Baby Boomers and Traditionalists have. Having survived previous declines, the older workers understand that things sooner or later improve. Therefore, on a whole, older workers are better able to adjust.
A recent Business Week article about the recessions impact on todays young people reports the same findings. The Age of Anxiety piece reported that the younger generation of our country are commencing their careers at a frightful time, and their initial employment choices may have financial ramifications for many years.
Both the MetLife study and the Business Week article indicate that managers need to do more to help younger workers cope with the anxiety of living and working in a recession.
It may seem to be a waste of time to indulge younger workers, especially with everything else on your plate every day. However, I have found, and the research of Harvard professor Bob Sutton shows, that a significant deterioration in productivity is the inevitable result of employees overtaken with the anxiety that a recession can produce.
Older managers should try to find time to discuss with younger workers how they are feeling about the economic slump and suggest strategies for braving the storm. Sharing personal stories from prior recessions and tips to pull through the stressful times in a positive manner will go a long way in improving younger employees work ethic, and ultimately the teams results.
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