Job Engagement Levels Across the Generations at Work

Job Engagement Levels Across the Generations at Work

Mark E. Brightenburg (University of Dallas, USA), J. Lee Whittington (University of Dallas, USA), Simone Meskelis (University of Dallas, USA) and Enoch Asare (Texas A&M University, Texarkana, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9906-7.ch004
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Abstract

For more than a decade, low levels of employee engagement have consistently been reported by the press and consultant community. A recurring chorus has emerged from this pattern of reporting: not only are less than 30% of employees fully engaged in their work, but this statistic is even lower among the fastest growing segment of the workforce – Millennials. But is the engagement level of Millennials really as low as reported? Are Millennials more likely to be actively disengaged than their older coworkers? This chapter takes a fresh look at these questions. A series of field studies were conducted to determine if there are indeed large differences in the level of engagement between the generations. The research conclusions in this chapter are at odds with the often-cited reports of low employee engagement. The reason for this variance is discussed and actionable solutions for facilitating high levels of employee engagement across a generation-diverse workforce are offered.
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Introduction

For over a decade we have been exposed to steady reporting of the low level of employee engagement. This is not merely an American problem; the levels of engagement around the globe are reported to be dismally low. Within this consistent reporting a recurring chorus has emerged: Not only are less than 30% of employees fully engaged in their work, this statistic is even lower in the fastest growing segment of the workforce – Millennials. This chorus seems to be reaching a crescendo and organizations are focusing on increasing resources to address this concern. But is the engagement level of Millennials really as low as reported? Are Millennials more likely to be actively disengaged than their older coworkers?

In this chapter, we take a fresh look at these questions. We conducted a series of field studies to determine if there are indeed differences in the level of engagement among Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennial cohorts. These studies involved employees from a wide variety of organizations and job categories. Rather than relying on a measure of engagement that focuses on contextual antecedents to engagement, we utilized a measure of engagement that is more clearly aligned with the conceptual definitions of engagement originally developed by Kahn (1990). This allowed us to take a deeper look at engagement by examining the cognitive, emotional, and physical components of employee engagement. Our conclusions are at odds with reports in the popular press. We discuss reasons for this variance and provide a discussion of actionable items for addressing the issues of engagement and disengagement across the generationally diverse workforce.

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