A New Generation Wants Employers to Show Them the Money
by Peter Zvalo
So you want your employer to show you the money? According to a survey conducted by Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, if you belong to the “millennial” generation (born in 1980 or later), a good salary is likely to be your top workplace priority, followed by opportunities for advancement, interesting work, work-life balance, and good benefits. These priorities starkly contrast the priorities of earlier generations, such as Gen-Xers (born 1962 to 1979), whose top priority is interesting work, followed by work-life balance, a good salary, flexible working hours, and intellectually stimulating work. People born before 1945 (the “silent” generation) place the highest value on work that is compatible with their moral values, followed by fairness in policies and procedures, fulfilling work, and flexible hours of work. (Salary ranks tenth on their list of priorities.)
The authors of the study admit that it has its limitations, most notably that it only offers a snapshot of the generations at different points in their lives. Further research would need to be done to determine whether earlier generations (baby boomers, for example) were any less concerned about money when they were in their 20s than millennials are now.
Nevertheless, the study does point to a new generation influenced by a combination of factors that may not have been as strong in the past. Continuing declines in attendance at religious institutions in recent years, the fall of Communism, and the resulting decline in the socialist movement in most western countries, combined with the proliferation of advertising have contributed to a culture of increasing consumerism.
How can we fault a generation whose “heroes” in the sports and entertainment business—many of whom also belong to the millennial generation—make astounding sums of money and continue to earn more with each passing year. Take the great Canadian game: hockey as an example. The salaries of professional hockey players have increased 240 percent since 1995, raising the average NHL salary from $733,000 US in the 1994–95 season, to nearly $2 million per season in 2002–03. Similar trends can be seen in other professional sports, not to mention in the movie and music business. Can this society expect youth and young adults to stand by and be humble? Not a chance.
Other factors may also help to explain the results of the Sprott survey. As tuitions rise, so does the amount of student debt, necessitating young adults to seek higher paying jobs to pay off these debts. And the growing lack of job security (as evidenced by the massive layoffs in the information sector of recent years) means that young workers are more likely to plan for the short term, rather than expect to build a life-long career with one employer. A short-term focus is compatible with the desire to earn as much money as possible now, rather than wait for promotions that could be years away.
Until now, technical writers and editors have been a rather modest lot, especially Canadians compared to their US counterparts. The Society for Technical Communication says that the mean salary for entry-level technical writers and editors in the US is about $43,000, compared to $41,000 in Canada. Not bad as a start, but it will be interesting to see whether the millennial generation will demand more.
Perhaps, despite rising debts and a higher cost of living, along with growing expectations to have the latest gadgets, the next generation will be able to strike a reasonable balance between replenishing their bank account and finding workplace fulfillment.
Peter Zvalo is a contributing editor of Writer’s Block.