Fall 2013 edition of EY Navigator

Younger managers rise in the ranks

EY study on generational shifts in the workplace

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EY released new research that shows a significant shift in Generations Y and X moving into management roles in the past five years and provides context, in light of this shift, for managing the generational mix. The research also explores perks that matter most to retain and engage employees of different age groups, and perceived strengths and weaknesses of members and managers of each generation.

EY’s external online generations survey of more than 1,200 US, cross-company professionals includes evenly split responses from managers and non-managers in three select generations — Gen Y/millennials: currently ages 18-32; Gen X: ages 33-48; and baby boomers: ages 49-67.

The survey reveals that management is evolving quickly: between 2008 and 2013 alone, 87% of Gen Y managers surveyed took on a management role vs. 38% of Gen X and 19% of baby boomer managers. By comparison, from 2003 to 2008, 12% Gen Y, 30% Gen X and 23% of boomers moved into management.

In considering today’s economic climate, most respondents selected Gen X (80%) as being equipped to manage effectively, followed closely by boomers (76%) and Gen Y (27%). Looking ahead to the economic conditions of 2020, respondents’ positive opinion of Gen X managers (65%) still persists and outpaces boomers (27%) and Gen Y, but the expectations that Gen Y will manage effectively in 2020 nearly double (from 27% now to 51% in 2020).

As expected, boomers were least likely to be identified as equipped to manage effectively in 2020 economic conditions, possibly because respondents expect more boomers to move into retirement.

“As management shifts to younger generations, the research reveals areas companies can focus on to enhance skill sets, address the challenges of managing multiple generations, and retain and engage employees by understanding which workplace perks they may value most,” said Karyn Twaronite, the EY Americas Inclusiveness Officer and a partner of Ernst & Young LLP. “While it’s encouraging that millennials are expected to significantly grow their managerial skills by 2020, the onus is on companies to also give them equitable opportunities to gain the right mentors, sponsors, career experiences and training to capitalize on this optimism.”

How to retain and engage each generation

In polling respondents about the importance of various workplace perks, cash is still king among all the generations and ranked first by nearly half of them (49%), while benefits such as health care and retirement ranked first by 22%. Boomers were significantly more likely to identify benefits as the most important perk compared to younger generations (29% vs. 19% Gen X and 17% Gen Y).

  • Given the increased focus on workplace flexibility in the news today, it’s interesting to note that flexibility is most important among the non-cash/benefits perks, with 18% ranking it first. Gen X rated flexibility as the most important perk (21%) over top-notch benefits (19%), with the survey also revealing they would be more likely to walk away from their current job in the absence of day-to-day flexibility (38% vs. 33% Gen Y and 25% boomers)
  • While women (20%) across all generations valued flexibility slightly more than men (16%), surprisingly men were more likely to say they would “walk away” from a job if day-to-day flexibility was not offered (34% men vs. 30% women). Gen X men (40%) were the most likely to leave if flexibility was not offered, followed by Gen X women (37%), Gen Y men (36%) and Gen Y women (30%)
  • Looking to the future of flexibility, while 62% of all respondents currently work standard office hours, only 50% expect to do so in five to 10 years. This is particularly true with Gen Y, as 64% currently work standard office hours and only 47% expect to in five to 10 years
  • Examining another perk, Gen Y respondents were significantly more likely to prefer promotions (13%) than Gen X (5%) and boomers (4%)
  • Across all generations, women (8%) and men (7%) nearly equally valued promotions, with Gen Y women (16%) valuing them the most, followed by Gen Y men (10%)

Survey methodology

EY conducted its external, cross-company generations survey in late June 2013. Respondents were evenly split among the three defined generational age groups (Gen Y: 33%, Gen X: 33% and boomers: 34%) and fairly evenly divided among males (48%) and females (52%). A majority of respondents (98%) worked full time, had some higher education (95%) and reported household income in excess of US$75,000 a year (57%). EY’s survey was fielded by ORC International, and the survey instrument was designed by FleishmanHillard Research and EY.