Young Workers Feel Less Engaged, More Pressured Than Older Workers

young workersIt seems like the younger members or our workforce are not particularly connected and engaged to their employers or their jobs these days. And it's not just a problem in the U.S. A recent global study found that younger workers "are lacking in engagement with their employers and are the most affected by perceived pressures at work." Oh, the pressure!

The study conducted among more than 30,000 employees in 29 countries by GfK Custom Research, a global market research agency, finds a labor market "polarized between disillusioned 18-to-29-year-olds and their older, possibly more resigned, counterparts."

Although younger employees are more likely to be free from the biggest responsibilities at work, a larger percentage of them are "frequently" or "nearly always" concerned about their work-life balance, pressure to work long hours and health, according to the survey

Not So Actively Engaged

Looking at the opposite ends of the workforce's age groups worldwide, just 21 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds are highly engaged with their employer, compared to 31 percent of those in their 60s. The same pattern appears in the U.S. workforce, with only 24 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds highly engaged with their employer, compared to 35 percent of employees in their 60s.

The survey found that younger workers are hopeful about their prospects, but they're not particularly committed to the positions they currently hold. A majority (52 percent) of young employees in the US believe that there are career opportunities available for them in the job market, but nearly three quarters of young employees (72 percent) are actively looking for a job, or will be in the next 6 months. Many (59 percent) would consider changing their career.

The Recession Takes Its Toll

The recession has dealt a hammer blow to the aspirations of many. Internationally, more than a third of young employees believe that they've been forced to accept a job they were unhappy with (36 percent) or been driven down a different career path (37 percent) because of the economy. It's even worse in the U.S.: More than four in 10 young employees feel they have been forced to take a job that they are not happy with (42 percent), or have taken a different career path because of the economy (45 percent). Nearly half of young workers (47 percent) say they have been forced to change life plans, such as delaying having children or buying a home, because of the economy.

Younger employees also appear to be bearing the brunt of businesses tightening their belts. Two fifths (39 percent) believe that their employer is using the recession to justify asking them to do more, compared to one in four older workers (24 percent). A third (34 percent) are also concerned with not having the resources to do their work effectively, compared to 22 percent of workers in their 60s.

This, in turn, may be having a real impact on younger workers' well-being. In the U.S., two fifths (41 percent) are frequently concerned about the levels of stress they experience at work, a higher percentage than any other age group. In addition, almost a third of young workers (30 percent) feel pressured by their company to work long hours, more than any other age group.

This leads to unhappiness in other areas. Forty-three percent of young workers in the U.S. say they are unhappy with their work-life balance, the highest percentage of all age groups, while nearly a third (31 percent) believe that work pressure is affecting their health -- again, more than any other age group.

"In the U.S., young people who find work may feel fortunate to have a job, but they are also clearly feeling pressure." said Tom Hartley, vice president at GfK Custom Research North America, U.S. "These findings support the view that we have a new, hard-working, but stressed generation of employees who place a greater value on work that they believe is meaningful to society, and on a strong desire to use their skills in their jobs."

That's one take on the findings. Older workers might see things a bit differently.

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