When generational employees leave higher education, what do we lose, and what do they leave behind?

Andrew M. Pena, University of Texas at El Paso

Abstract

Given the state of the economy, lack of competitive jobs and decreasing number of voluntary retirements, by the year 2018 many institutions of higher education may see five generations working side by side. This study examined three of the four generations working at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP): Baby Boomers, who are those employees born between the years of 1946 through 1964; Generation X, those employees born between the years of 1965 through 1980; and Millennials, currently the youngest working generation, born between the years 1981 through 2000. This research examines the literature on generational groups and their attitudes toward work. Veterans/Silents are those employees born between the years of 1914 through 1945. They were excluded from this study.^ Study 1 ("Leavers") examined the reasons why some generational Classified staff employees left UTEP between the fiscal years from 2005 to 2008, and if the reasons for their separation were correlated with generational tendencies, or career stage changes. This study also examined whether a generational cohort's gender or ethnicity (Hispanic & Non-Hispanic) played a role in the decisions to leave employment. Study 2 ("Stayers") examined why existing UTEP Classified Generation X and Millennial employees elected to remain employed, and if those reasons were related to their association with a particular generation group. Lastly, because institutional knowledge and business continuity are important issues, the study stressed the importance of what was lost when generational cohorts leave their employment sooner than expected.^ From both the literature review and the results of the studies, it is clear that generational group membership significantly impacts the proportion of time worked at UTEP. However, there were no significant effects from either ethnicity, gender, or ending salary on length of service. When the three groups (Boomers, Millennials and Generation X'ers) are compared, two sets of groups significantly differed from each other in terms of length of service. These were the Boomers and Millennials, and the Generation X'ers and Millennials. ^ Study 2 demonstrated that turnover and retention of staff were not necessarily related to generational affiliation or cohort association, but rather to other reasons, which were primarily job-related. Gen. X and Millennial employees were happy working at UTEP. They appreciated the benefits, enjoyed the academic setting, and planned to remain working at the institution for at least three more years, if not longer. As far as the study could determine, none of these reasons to stay or go were related to generational affiliation. The primary factor appeared rather to be the institution's implementation of effective and consistent management practices. Employee satisfaction also came from programs that engage employees, reward and recognize employees and improve communication. Additional factors were equitable compensation and family-friendly benefits.^ The opportunities for future research regarding the relationship between generational cohort and job tenure or job satisfaction are endless. Future research should expand these studies to include additional employee categories in order to determine if the generational differences extend to other areas of employment, and whether they affect job satisfaction in other job classifications. ^

Subject Area

Education, Higher Education Administration|Business Administration, Management|Sociology, Organizational|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Pena, Andrew M., "When generational employees leave higher education, what do we lose, and what do they leave behind?" (2012). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3552255.
http://digitalcommons.utep.edu/dissertations/AAI3552255

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