Survey Reveals The X Factor

May 8, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Contrary to popular assumptions, Generation X professionals are committed and loyal to their current employers.

In a recent study conducted by Catalyst and sponsored by General Electric and Ernst & Young, 47 percent of respondents said they would be happy spending the rest of their careers with their current employers; 85 percent said they cared a great deal about their company's future; 83 percent said they would be willing to go above and beyond what's expected of them to ensure their company's success; and 75 percent said they're "extremely glad" they chose the company they did

Catalyst, a nonprofit research organization, surveyed more than 1,200 professionals born between 1964 and 1975 from eight U.S. and two Canadian companies about their career and personal expectations, with the goal of giving corporate and professional America a better understanding of what Generation X professionals seek in the workplace.

As of January 2001, there were approximately 32 million people between the ages of 25 and 34 in the labor force, representing 18 percent of the total U.S. workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Among the key findings were that these young professionals place more importance on personal values and goals than on work-related values and goals and that they want support in managing their work/life commitments.

Although their goals and values are still unclear, said Catalyst President Sheila Wellington, many of their values regarding company loyalty and job expectations appear traditional.

Respondents indicated they were attracted to their current organizations for fairly traditional reasons:

** Perceived advancement opportunities (88 percent)

** Appropriateness of position offered (79 percent)

** Compensation offered (78 percent)

** Organization's reputation (77 percent)

** Benefits (76 percent)

At the same time, their reasons for leaving a company followed along traditional lines:

** Increased intellectual stimulation (77 percent)

** Greater advancement opportunities (75 percent)

** Increased compensation (72 percent)

Among the exceptions that were noted: 67 percent of respondents would like a compressed workweek; 59 percent would like to be able to telecommute; and 54 percent want a casual dress code.

Though more than half of both men and women said they'd like to telecommute or work a compressed week, only a small percentage are able to take advantage of flexible work arrangements in their present organizations, Wellington notes.

More U.S. women (83 percent) than U.S. men (69 percent) said flexible work arrangements were important to career satisfaction. There were no differences, however, between Canadian men and women on that issue; 74 percent favored flexible work arrangements.

Young professionals expect more from their employers, but not in the form of unusual perks, Wellington said.

"They want programs and policies to help them navigate their advancement and manage their work and personal commitments. This generation of professionals is looking for flexible work arrangements to be able to juggle demanding jobs with the demands of a family."

Respondents from both U.S. and Canada agreed on several top strategies for workplace advancement:

**Exceeding performance expectations (70 percent)

**Seeking out difficult or highly visible assignments (54 percent)

**Networking with influential co-workers (49 percent)

**Initiating discussions with managers or partners about career aspirations (48 percent)

Canadian and U.S. respondents, however, differed on one of the top strategies. Canadians reported that developing and adhering to one's own career goals is a top strategy for career advancement, while U.S. respondents reported that having an influential mentor or sponsor was a top strategy.

While the study showed the educational attainment gap between men and women is closing — women ages 25 to 34 exceeded men in that age group in education attainment levels in 2000 — there's evidence a gender gap still exists:

**More than 50 percent of men surveyed thought advancement opportunities for white women had increased significantly from 10 years ago, while 25 percent of women thought so.

**37 percent of white men believe advancement opportunities for women of color have increased greatly over the last 10 years, while only 9 percent of women of color agree.

**62 percent of men believe that men and women are paid the same for similar work, while 30 percent of women agree.

**Nearly 50 percent of women say they have to outperform men to get the same rewards, while 11 percent of men agree.

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