Career Development: What Do Younger Generations Expect?

Image: Career Development: What Do Younger Generations Expect?

Understanding Career Development Expectations for Younger Generations

With a multigenerational workforce comprised of Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Ys, high performing organizations have moved away from a “one-size fits all” approach to meeting employee needs. People strategies now need to be broader in scope and application so that they can tap into the values, behaviours and expectations of each generation.

One area that organizations need to understand and respond to more effectively is career development. The goal of career development in today’s workplace is to keep employees longer and to keep them more engaged while they are with your organization. It is necessary to understand the career development expectations of each generation and to build mechanisms to either meet those expectations or manage them.

Career development for Gen X

Gen Xers are still often viewed as part of the ‘young’ professional group despite many in this cohort having a decade or two of work experience. Many Gen Xers view themselves as free agents in the labour market. They maintain their independence in the workplace by constantly focusing on gaining marketable skills and results. By doing so, this allows Gen Xers to control their own careers.

Gen Xers expect organizations to not only ask them what skills or direction they wish to take their careers, but also to honour and support them in fulfilling those requests. With this sceptical generation, it is critical that leaders not stall their career advancement, or try to cajole and mislead them into staying with your organization longer than they desire. It is much more effective to let them move on if they wish and then possibly bring them back into the organization at a later date when they can contribute in another way.

Gen Ys and Career Development

Gen Ys grew up in an era where their interests, opinions and ideas were solicited, listened to and acted upon continuously. Parents and the school system focused on building the confidence and the self-esteem of Gen Ys by providing praise and encouragement.

This cohort’s goal is to find work and to create a life that has meaning. Gen Ys expect organizations to continuously assist them in finding that meaning in their current and future career goals. Learning and development provided by the organization is a must-have and it’s not perceived as a reward. Moreover, they expect that while they will be trained on skills required to do their job successfully, they will also have the opportunity to learn skills that align to their other interests. Active career collaboration with this generation is critical as leaders need to understand and not judge the career paths of their Gen Y employees.

The more leaders are supportive and the more they provide assistance with achieving Gen Y career goals, the longer they will keep those employees and keep them more engaged. Support and assistance can take a variety of forms from tuition subsidies, to scheduling accommodations for night school classes, to peer-to-peer learning, to job shadowing.

Understanding the career development expectations of each generation will keep your employees with your organization longer and ensure that they are more engaged and high performing while they are working with you.

Giselle Kovary

As president and co-founder of n-gen People Performance Inc., Giselle is dedicated to building strategies and programs that target, motivate and engage a multigenerational workforce. She is a sought after resource to industry leaders, having worked with 18 of the top Fortune 500 companies. Over 60,000 people globally have experienced an n-gen workshop or presentation. She has devoted more than fifteen years to researching the impact that generational differences have on organizational performance. Giselle has co-authored two books: Loyalty Unplugged: How to Get, Keep & Grow All Four Generations and Upgrade Now: 9 Advanced Leadership Skills. She has a Master’s degree in communication studies from the University of Windsor.

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