Millennials work as hard as previous generations

When it comes to work, millennials are nearly as engaged as Generation X and baby boomers.

According to a recent Gallup poll, 28% of millennials — those born from 1980 to 1996 —- are engaged in the workplace, which means they are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their jobs.

Some 30% of Gen Xers are engaged and 31% of baby boomers are engaged.

That's surprising, considering all of the turmoil millennials have encountered during their lifetimes.

Since the tragedy of 9/11, it's been one crisis after another — a tumultuous economy, a housing crisis, a stock market crash and wars.

But we're underestimating the resilience of the younger generation, which is poised to take over the workplace.

Carolyn Goerner, clinical professor of management in the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, says millennials carry a positive attitude but don't get much credit.

Despite our notions, millennials have a real desire to find work with meaning, work as a team and treat people as if they matter, she says.

Workplace engagement by generation

Millennials Generation X Baby boomers Traditionalists
Engaged 28% 30% 31% 38%
Not engaged 55% 50% 49% 47%
Actively disengaged 17% 20% 20% 15%

Of course, baby boomers  — born from 1946 to 1964  — who plan to work past the 65 mark are a little more engaged than millennials, Gen Xers (born between 1965 and 1979) and boomers overall. (Check out our story on why baby boomers are pushing retirement back.)

And there's a small group born from 1900 to 1945 called "traditionalists" still in the workforce who are more engaged than any of the other generations, but not by much  — 38%.

So why is there little difference in engagement between generations in the workplace?

"Feelings of engagement are typically driven by job enrichment, which is a combination of skill-enhancement and feeling valued in the workplace," says Daniel Grundmann, the former director of human resources for the city of Bloomington, Ind.

Grundmann, a lecturer at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, says that each of the four generations we typically recognize value enrichment foremost as a contributor to job satisfaction.

"Given the engagement levels reported among the nontraditionalists generations, what the Gallup Poll suggests is simply that job enrichment is not an age-dependent issue in the workplace," notes Grundmann.

In addition, engagement could depend on whether or not employees fit into their workplace.

Goerner says that companies will have very engaged employees as long as they're hiring people that fit their culture.

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