Contrary to popular belief, new research has found that the age group most interested in development opportunities at work isn’t Millennials: it’s people in their 40s and 50s.
After asking over 2,000 people what was most desirable for them in a job, business energy comparison site Love Energy Savings found that people aged between 45 and 54, who make up a large portion of those known as Generation X (people born in the 60s and 70s), are more likely than any other age group to want more development opportunities at work.
Of those respondents that said a clear development path was most important to them in a job, 30% were aged 45-54, compared with just 17% of 18-24s. The 45-54 age group were also more likely than any other group to want to learn cross-functional skills by working in other departments.
How does this differ from previous findings?
Previous research has suggested that workers in Generation X are less interested in development opportunities at work than Millennials are.
For example, a 2016 report conducted by Gallup, entitled How Millennials Want to Work and Live, revealed that only 44% of Gen Xers felt opportunities to learn and grow are extremely important factors to consider when applying for a job, compared to 59% of millennials.
But this trend might be changing as Gen Xers get closer to reaching the peaks of their careers, as suggested by the new research from by Love Energy Savings.
One study that this new research reinforces is from talent solutions company Hudson’s. They found that Generation X employees can sometimes be forgotten in the workplace when it comes to development because employers are more concerned with attracting millennials. As a result, 47% of Gen Xers didn’t understand the career opportunities that were available to them and 20% struggled to achieve a good work-life balance.
Restriking the balance between work and life
Further research from Love Energy Savings found that Gen Xers may also be more interested in spending time with their teams outside of work than might previously have been expected.
When asked about what perks they would want from a job, 45-54s were almost twice as likely to want regular nights out with colleagues (18%) than 35-44s (10%). They were also more likely to see extra holidays as the most important perk of the job, with 27% of the vote.
It may be that a lack of development opportunities at work is making Gen Xers look beyond the workplace for fulfilment. Statistics compiled by Forth show that the leading cause of stress in 45-54s is work, rather than money, which was the primary cause of stress in 18-24s.
What does this mean for employers?
In light of this new research, employers may need to readjust how they think about senior staff development.
Businesses that rely on regular pay reviews to retain employees in their 40s and 50s might lose out to those that prioritise life-long learning and development plans. Generation X want opportunities just as challenging and satisfying as they are for those that have yet to climb the career ladder. Research conducted by BlessingWhite shows that employees are more likely to stay loyal to a company if given opportunities to develop their skills, regardless of age.
Phil Foster, Founder and Managing Director of Love Energy Savings, highlighted the reasons why it’s important to listen to your older employees. He said:
“Many businesses might focus a great deal on attracting and retaining younger employees with plenty of perks and developments opportunities, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, our research suggests that older workers are just as hungry for opportunities to enhance their skill set and try something new. They shouldn’t be neglected or ignored.”
“Businesses that want to continue to grow should ensure everyone has a clear development plan and a ‘lattice’-shaped — rather than ladder-shaped — progression structure; making it just as easy to move sideways into different roles as it is to move upwards in current roles.
“That way,” he said, “talented staff won’t feel they have to look elsewhere to develop, no matter what life stage they’re at.”