I recently read an article stating that 10,000 Baby Boomers—people born between 1946 and 1962—retire from or leave the workforce every day. This creates opportunities for Gen Xers and Millennials, especially with regard to leadership positions. But do Gen Xers and Millennials want these positions? In an interesting study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers reported some surprising differences between Baby Boomers and the other generations. When asked what they valued most in life, Baby Boomers stated they were looking to find personal meaning in the work they do and to have the opportunity to raise a family.
Gen Xers and Millennials agreed on the importance of raising a family, but they weren’t
much interested in finding personal meaning. Both groups placed much more value on being
well off financially, something not as highly valued by Baby Boomers.
But Gen Xers and Millennials also expressed little interest in other areas: the
environment, becoming a leader in the community, and managing others. If these values don’t
modify over time, there may be a real shortage of leaders in preserving the environment,
serving the public through governmental positions, and managing others in organizations. This
could become a serious problem as the Baby Boomers—who also expressed little interest in
managing others—leave the leadership positions they have achieved.
These changing values will create new challenges for organizations. HR professionals
such as recruiters and benefits specialists will need to be aware of what younger workers are
looking for in their careers. They will also need to be able to identify and nurture leadership
talent, since the opportunity to manage others seems not to be an important value for workers
born after 1962. Companies now spend around $2 billion annually on identifying and coaching
individuals with leadership potential. Unless Gen Xers and Millennials change their values,
companies may soon be spending more than that.