The XYZs: Understanding Generational Differences in Public Service Motivation

The U.S. workforce has experienced a substantial transformation in last decade, specifically in regard to the number of different generations represented in the labor force today. Public and private organizations alike are faced with the challenge of recruiting, retaining, and managing employees from five different generations, the most recent of which have proven to be starkly different than their predecessors. Traditionally, non-profit organizations have relied on Perry and Wise's (1990) public service motivation theory to recruit and retain employees with natural predispositions toward public sector work. However, the introduction of newer generations with different values and priorities into the workplace calls into question the efficacy of public service motivation as a recruiting tactic for Generations X, Y, and Z. This study explores the relationship between public service motivation and work values associated with generational cohorts X, Y and Z. Utilizing a correlational design, this study aims to examine how public service motivation differs across these generational cohorts, what other motivating factors are specific to each group, and how the both factor into each group's decision to pursue a public service career.