Work Values Across Generations - A Study of the Greek Hotel Workforce
Date: 11 November 2013
University of Exeter
PhD in Management Studies
“There is a problem in the workplace…It is a problem of values, ambitions, views, mind-sets, demographics, and generations in conflict. The workplace you and we inhabit today is awash with the conflicting voices and views of the most age- and value-diverse workforce this country has known since our great-great-grandparents abandoned ...
“There is a problem in the workplace…It is a problem of values, ambitions, views, mind-sets, demographics, and generations in conflict. The workplace you and we inhabit today is awash with the conflicting voices and views of the most age- and value-diverse workforce this country has known since our great-great-grandparents abandoned field and farm for factory and office” (Zemke, Raines & Filipczak, 2000, p. 9). The opening quotation encapsulates the popular belief among management practitioners that substantive and meaningful inter-generational differences exist in work values among the members of current workforce. Despite this practitioner interest and debate, systematic empirical research either to confirm or refute popular claims has, until recently, been lagging. Moreover, the few academic studies on this topic have largely focused on the US context and research from other countries, particularly non-English speaking, is scant. The aim of this study is to fill this vacuum by investigating the nature of work values across the prevalent generations of workers within the relatively unexplored cultural context of Greek hotel organisations. Building upon Schwartz’s (1994) theory of basic values and Vincent’s (2005) culture-specific approach of generational identity formation, this study proposes a values-based framework for studying generational differences in the workplace. The framework includes four types of work values namely extrinsic, intrinsic, prestige and social and three age-based generational groups; the Divided generation (1946-1966), the Metapolitefsi generation (1967-1981) and the Europeanised generation (1982-1996). The framework assumes that age-based generational identity is a culture specific phenomenon comprised of a distinctive set of values. The expectations and motivations towards work are shaped by this set of values, which emerged as a product of a living through experience from the successive entry into adulthood and endure as the members of each generation travelling through time together. In addition, generational boundaries are determined by revolutionary events that are contingent on the specific cultural context in which they became meaningful. The study assessed the concept of work values with a novel scale, designed to succinctly measure the four underlying work value types that were consistently observed in previous research. The proposed work values model was tested using a multiple triangulation approach with two samples and two methods of analysis across two studies. In study 1, the work values scores were collected by 303 workers in 7 year-round hotel establishments operated in the region of Macedonia and analysed with exploratory factor analysis. In study 2, the work values scores were collected by 304 workers in 7 seasonal hotel establishments from the same region and analysed with confirmatory factor analysis. The results of study 2 confirmed the outcome of study 1. More importantly, the analysis revealed that compared to theory driven alternatives, a second-order model, comprised of a general work values factor with four latent factors – intrinsic, material, power and affective work values, best fitted the data. This model helps to show how various types of work values fit together into a cohesive whole, allowing HR researchers and practitioners to identify broader patterns and trends in work values to improve HR interventions. Furthermore, multivariate analysis of variance among the entire sample (607 hotel workers) revealed significant generational differences in three types of work values (intrinsic, prestige and social), even when the effect of gender (male vs female) and operational pattern (seasonal vs year round) was taken into account. Some of the most complex challenges facing human resource professionals in contemporary organisations such as conflict, transferring of knowledge as well as retention of talents are often associated with these differences. Knowledge about the work values of each generation cohabiting current workplace can help organisations in creating practices that foster inter-generational synergies and comfort in the workplace. This in turn will allow them to narrow the social distance represented by the “generation gap”, an impediment to the effectiveness of even the most sophisticated human resource practices.
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