Original Research

A generational perspective on work values in a South African sample

Petronella Jonck, Freda van der Walt, Ntomzodwa C. Sobayeni
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 43 | a1393 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v43i1.1393 | © 2017 Petronella Jonck, Freda van der Walt, Ntomzodwa C. Sobayeni | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 July 2016 | Published: 23 January 2017

About the author(s)

Petronella Jonck, The National School of Government, Research and Innovation Unit, South Africa
Freda van der Walt, Department of Business Management, Central University of Technology, South Africa
Ntomzodwa C. Sobayeni, Department of Business Management, Central University of Technology, South Africa


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Abstract

Orientation: In order to ensure harmonious relationships in the workplace, work values of different generational cohorts need to be investigated and understood.

Research purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate the work values of a South African sample from a generational perspective, in order to foster an understanding of the similarities and differences of different generational cohorts in terms of work values.

Motivation of the study: Understanding the work values of different generational cohorts could assist organisations to manage and retain human capital in an increasingly competitive environment. Furthermore, it could assist organisations to develop an advanced understanding of employee behaviour, which should inform conflict-resolution strategies to deal with reported conflict between different generational cohorts.

Research design, approach and method: The study was conducted within the positivist paradigm and was quantitative in nature. Data were gathered from 301 employees representing three different generational cohorts, namely the Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y. A cross-sectional study was conducted, and data were collected once off by means of the Values Scale. The psychometric properties of the Values Scale have a reliability coefficient of 0.95, and the scale has been applied successfully in various iterations.

Main findings: The findings indicate statistically significant differences and similarities between the various generational cohorts in terms of work values. More specifically, similarities and differences between the various generational cohorts were observed with regard to the values of authority, creativity, risk and social interaction in the work context.

Practical/managerial implications: Organisations can use the findings of the study to strengthen employee interaction within the work environment. In addition, the findings can be used to inform retention and management strategies, in order to ensure harmonious relationships in the workplace.

Contribution/value-add: The study contributes to the literature on South African generational cohorts and work values.


Keywords

work values; generational cohort theory; Baby Boomers; Generation X; Generation Y

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