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Work design for different generational cohorts: Determining common and idiosyncratic job characteristics

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to uncover the nature of job characteristics related to different generational cohorts (Baby-boomers, Generation X and Generation Y). Significant differences between four task and four social job characteristics across generational cohorts have been revealed. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The empirical research was conducted through a field study of employees from large-sized Croatian organizations. A cross-sectional and cross-occupational research design was applied. A total of 512 knowledge workers (139 managers and 373 professionals) participated in the research. Descriptive and inferential statistical methods were used to determine and compare work design across generations. Findings ‐ The results indicate that job characteristics are not equally represented within different generational cohorts. While the nature of task job characteristics is mostly irrespective of generations, social job characteristics to some extent differ among generational cohorts. High task variety, reasonably high task identity, and a moderate level of both received interdependence and task significance are recognized as common job characteristics of knowledge workers across generations. However, jobs of Baby-boomers, Xers, and Yers are idiosyncratic for work autonomy, interaction with others, initiated interdependence, and teamwork. Additionally, the inclusion of the work type as a control variable revealed that interaction with others does differ but only among generations of professionals. Originality/value ‐ The present study is the first research in which generational similarities and differences have been empirically examined through job characteristics. The authors focused on knowledge workers within an under-researched context (studies about knowledge workers, work design and generational differences are rare or non-existent in south-eastern European countries), making this systematic investigation unique and practically significant.
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Keywords: Croatia; Generational differences; Job characteristics; Work design; Workforce generations

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 08 July 2014

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