In-house gyms, meditation rooms and on-site laundry services introduced to accommodate changing work values

Generational differences in work values: Leisure and extrinsic values increasing, social and intrinsic values decreasing

From Journal of Management

This study examines a US nationally representative sample of young people and measures their values at the same age at different points in time, to observe generational differences in values. It is recognized that today’s workforce consists of individuals from four generations: the Silent Generation (born 1925-1945), the Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1981), and Generation Me (1982-1999). Results indicate that leisure values increased steadily over the generations and work centrality declined. Generation Me place more value on work that provides extrinsic rewards.

One of the biggest challenges for organizations in the coming years will be the retirement of more than 75 million older workers and their replacement by a comparable number of young people entering the workforce. Organizational practices are changing to adapt to the work values of Generation Me; SAS has an in-house gym; leading companies have added amenities focusing on work–life balance on site like facilities for laundry and massages; eBay set aside two rooms for meditation; and KPMG now offers workers 5 weeks of paid time off during their 1st year. Other companies have tried to attract the young generation with programs that allow employees to volunteer to help others during work hours or that emphasize the social good behind their products or mission. The findings of this study of the outlining differences in work values can have practical implications for the recruitment and management of the emerging workforce.


Organizations are currently facing the retirement of many older workers and the challenge of recruiting and retaining young talent. However, few studies have empirically substantiated generational differences in work values. This study examines the work values of a nationally representative sample of U.S. high school seniors in 1976, 1991, and 2006 (N = 16,507) representing Baby Boomers, Generation X (GenX), and Generation Me (GenMe, also known as GenY, or Millennials). With data collected across time, these analyses isolate generational differences from age differences, unlike one-time studies, which cannot separate the two. Leisure values increased steadily over the generations (d comparing Boomers and GenMe = .57), and work centrality declined. Extrinsic values (e.g., status, money) peaked with GenX but were still higher among GenMe than among Boomers (d =.26). Contrary to popular press reports, GenMe does not favor altruistic work values (e.g., helping, societal worth) more than previous generations. Social values (e.g., making friends) and intrinsic values (e.g., an interesting, results-oriented job) were rated lower by GenMe than by Boomers. These findings have practical implications for the recruitment and management of the emerging workforce.

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Article Details:
Twenge, J., Campbell, S., Hoffman, B., & Lance, C. (2010). Generational Differences in Work Values: Leisure and Extrinsic Values Increasing, Social and Intrinsic Values Decreasing Journal of Management, 36 (5), 1117-1142 DOI: 10.1177/0149206309352246

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