Gen X 'squeezed' between generations: PwC

'Significant' potential for dissatisfaction

Boomers are making up less of the Canadian workforce than they used to and it is gen Ys who are benefiting more than the "quiet majority" of gen-X workers, according to a PwC report.

"With older workers staying on longer — many in senior positions — and younger employees with a hunger for advancement coming up from below, the potential for disaffection in the generation X ranks is significant,” said Value Through Your People, a report prepared for the banking industry.

Promotion rates for gen Ys have held steady at close to 20 per cent from 2008 to 2010 while boomers' promotion rates fell from five per cent to three per cent. However, gen-X promotion rates fell from more than 11 per cent to less than 10 per cent over the same three years, during what should be peak years of upward mobility, said Philip Hunter, a director in PwC's people and change practice.

Gen Xers are perhaps being squeezed by older workers delaying retirement and younger, more aggressive gen Ys intent on rising through the ranks quickly, he said.

"Other contributing factors may include changes to operating models that favour relationship skills rather than management expertise, and career paths characterized by more stringent promotion criteria at more senior levels, which would disproportionately impact gen Xers."

Banks and other industries with multi-generational workforces have to take a different approach in thinking about career progression, the formal promotions process and changes to their operating model, according to Karen Forward, a director in PwC's financial services people and change practice.

Between 2006 and 2010, the ratio of baby boomers to gen-Y employees at Canadian banks shrunk from six-to-one to less than two-to-one. At this rate, gen Y will outnumber the boomer generation in Canadian banks within the next three to five years, found the study. At the same time, gen X is by far the largest generational employee group for Canadian banks, comprising a "quiet majority" of between 55 per cent and 60 per cent of the total workforce.

"Banks need to be asking questions such as, 'How does each generation contribute to our organization across our lines of services and corporate functions?' and 'Are we helping the different generations to work together?'" said Forward. "Banks will need to look at collaboration tools, skill transfer programs and address the gen- X ‘squeeze’ to keep these key employees engaged.”

The challenge is making certain gen-X employees feel valued by providing them with opportunities to not only gain experience from baby boomers but to share their own expertise and knowledge with gen Y, said Hunter.

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