Survey Findings

Finding Ten: Boomers Are Mission-Focused

From the counter-culture to the culture wars, Boomers have always talked a lot about mission, meaning, and values, and they bring that rhetoric to their careers as well. Fully 56 percent of older Boomers and 50 percent of younger Boomers “strongly agreed” that they want to be “100 percent dedicated to my organization’s mission.” That number declines sharply for older Gen Xers and continues to decline through Millennials, in a remarkable 19-point generational spread. Each generation’s assessment of its employers’ performance in this area follows a nearly identical trend: Generations that value commitment to mission report higher mission-focus in their current jobs.

Where does the Boomer focus on mission come from? Members of this generation tend to see their work as an integral part of a unified, authentic lifestyle. To a typical Boomer, part of being happy in your job is the sense of total commitment and buy-in to the mission and values of the organization. For Boomers, the organization they work for should not just reflect what they do, but also embody who they are. Their profession shapes their lifestyle. Gen Xers take a far more modular approach to their work. Many see their lives as an assortment of separate activities (work, family, social life) which each have a place, yet which don’t need to be cosmically unified. Gen Xers are less likely than Boomers to suppose an organization needs a “mission” to be worth working for.

When crafting their messaging or employer branding to current employees or future recruits, employers need to consider these two very different views about organizational mission. While a mission-focused value proposition may resonate very well with Boomers, a more pragmatic, outcomes-oriented message typically works better with Gen Xers—and with Millennials.