The headline reads: A Disengaged Generation: Young Workers Disengaged by Pressures of Work Worldwide. A pretty dramatic headline, isn't it. It's not mine, but I noticed it a couple of days ago on PR Newswire. According to a new study "...conducted among more than 30,000 employees in 29 countries by GfK Custom Research, a global market research agency, finds a labor market polarized between disillusioned 18 to 29 year-olds and their older, possibly more resigned, counterparts."
"Internationally, two fifths of young workers (39 percent) are unhappy with their work-life balance -- again the highest percentage of all age groups -- while a third (32 percent) feel that work pressure and stress frequently impacts their health -- five points more than those in the 50's, and ten points higher than those in their 60's." reports GfK. "In the US, two fifths of young workers (43 percent) are unhappy with their work-life balance, the highest percentage of all age groups, while nearly a third (31 percent) believe that work pressure is affecting their health, again more than any other age group."
There might be some who would look at this and say to themselves, "I could have told you the younger generation just doesn't want to work hard." But I think that would be an over-simplification and an inaccurate portrayal of the situation.
Over the course of my career, I've observed that most employers want, expect and often demand that the workforce be willing to spend extra hours on the job. There are times when this is important to get a project finished or handle a crisis, but in light of the current economic situation with most organizations trying to do more with less, many project teams are finding it to be a weekly situation -- and it's taking its toll.
In an environment where we need the workforce to be totally engaged and invested in what they're doing, the GfK study suggests, "Young workers around the world are lacking in engagement with their employers and are the most affected by perceived pressures at work, posing long-term retention and management problems for companies and countries..."
As Bob Dylan famously sang, "The times, they are a-changing." And I think that's true with the workforce today and as project leaders, we need to figure out the best way to work with a "new" workforce.