The multi-generational workforce

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Introduction and overview

With the problem defined and the goals of the study specified in the previous chapters, the purpose of this chapter is to describe how the researcher proceeded in addressing the research question and research objectives by selecting the appropriate research design and methodology, with the aim to ensure that the research met validity and reliability requirements.

Research philosophy

Before delving into the research design and approach, it is important to examine the research philosophy of this study, which relates to the development of knowledge and the nature of knowledge (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2009). The way in which social research is carried out depends on how the researcher views the world (Seale, 1999).
Research philosophy is a belief about the way in which data should be gathered, analysed, and used. The research philosophy comprises the research strategy employed and research instruments used (Nissen, Klein & Hirschheim, 1991). The philosophies regarding research approaches, which the researcher applied in this research study, were ontology and epistemology. The term epistemology refers to what is known to be true, and ontology refers to what is believed to be true (Nissen et al., 1991).


Ontology is the viewpoint and social reality of the researcher; and epistemology is how the researcher knows and interprets the world (Schurink, 2009). Ontology is concerned with the nature of reality and assumptions about how the world is constituted, as well as the nature of things. Both aspects of ontology, namely, subjectivism and objectivism were applied in this study. Subjectivism holds that social phenomena are created from the perceptions and consequent actions of those social actors concerned with their existence (Saunders, et al., 2009).
Social phenomena are a continual process, in that, through the process of social interaction, these social phenomena are in a constant state of revision. Remenyi and Williams (1998:35) stress the necessity to study “the details of the situation to understand the reality or perhaps a reality working behind them.” This is often associated with the term constructionism, or social constructionism (Saunders, et al., 2009).
The subjectivist view is something that is created and re-created through a complex array of phenomena, which include social interactions and physical factors to which individuals attach certain meanings, rituals and myths. It is the meanings that are attached to these phenomena by social actors within the organisation that need to be understood in order for the culture to be understood (Saunders, et al., 2009). Bryman and Bell (2015) considers social constructionism as social phenomena and their meanings that are continually being changed and revised through social interaction. Human beings construct the organisation and the culture, instead of the organisation and culture being predetermined aspects that affect behaviours. Both these philosophical positions were used in this study.
The objectivism position (or positivism) holds that social entities exist in objective reality, independent of social actors. It deals with verifiable observations and measurable relations between those observations, which do not depend on subjective opinions. It uses the deductive approach and hypothesis testing to study phenomena and interpret data or results.
According to Bryman and Bell (2015), the positivist position of an organisation is that an organisation is a tangible object with rules, regulations, and procedures, with people appointed to different jobs under a division of labour, within a hierarchy. It has a mission and vision, and the organisation has an objective reality that is independent of social actors within it, representing a social order that requires individuals to conform to the rules and regulations. A summary of differences between the positivist and interpretivist paradigms (Easterby-Smith, Thorpe & Lowe, 1991) are shown in Table 9.
While positivists apply fixed structural frameworks in research, interpretivists generally avoid them and adopt a more personal and flexible research structure that are receptive to capturing meanings in human interaction (Black, 2006) and makes sense of what is perceived as reality (Carson, Gilmore, Perry & Gronhaug, 2001). They believe that the researcher and his/her informants are interdependent and mutually interactive (Hudson & Ozanne, 1988). Therefore, the goal of interpretivist research is to understand and interpret the meanings in human behaviour, rather than to generalise and predict causes and effects (Hudson & Ozanne, 1988). For an interpretivist researcher, it is important to understand motives, meanings, reasons, and other subjective experiences that are time- and context-bound (Hudson & Ozanne, 1988).


Epistemology is the philosophy of knowledge. Its focus is the origin and nature of knowledge. Hence, it addresses the relationship between the researcher and knowledge (Hirschheim, Klein & Lyytinen, 1995).
Epistemology relates to beliefs about how one might discover knowledge about the world (Creswell, 2012), and refers to the science of knowing (Babbie, 2015). The epistemological position the present study took was to investigate what intrinsic and extrinsic rewards the youth value — what attracts and retains them.
The empirical part of the research is presented from the functional paradigm, which means that, using instruments, the researcher will try to understand the behaviour of this population. The ontology and epistemology of the researcher are that the worldview is explainable, and that reality only exists as meaningful lives are played out (Babbie, 2015).
In summary, ontology deals with how people view the world, how it is made up, and the nature (being) of things. Lee (1999) defines ontology as a concept concerned with the existence of, and relationship between, different aspects of society, such as social actors, cultural norms, and social structure, while epistemology is about how to get valid knowledge and who will supply it.
Integrating both concepts, the present study’s focus was the rewards systems used in business organisations. An organisation consists of a group of people who collaborate to achieve a commercial goal, and the organisational structure defines how activities such as task allocation, co-ordination, and supervision are directed towards the achievement of this goal. The organisational structure determines how roles, power, and responsibilities are assigned, controlled, and co-ordinated, and how information flows between the different levels. The structure depends on the organisation’s objectives and strategy. In a centralised structure, top management owns most of the decision-making power, and has tight control over departments and divisions. The decision-making power is distributed, and the departments and divisions may have different degrees of independence.
The main research question was: How can a total rewards framework for youth be conceptualised best?
The research objectives were to:

  • evaluate the effectiveness of the reward categories of the WorldatWork (2015) Total Rewards Model;
  • identify the factors that attract the youth to organisations;
  • identify the factors that retain the youth in organisations;
  • determine what changes need to be made to the reward categories of the WorldatWork (2015) Total Rewards Model make it more effective; and
  • develop an effective total rewards framework for attracting and retaining the youth.
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Some of the motivators of employees and the reward factors are quantitative and others are qualitative in nature. Therefore, both the interpretivist and positivist paradigms were applied in this study. In order for the researcher to collect valid and reliable data, the researcher targeted both qualified youths and qualified non-youths, particularly those in tertiary institutions, HR generalists (HRGs), and recruitment, remuneration, and organisation development (OD) specialists, as these are the people who were assumed to possess relevant knowledge regarding the issues being investigated in this study.
In order to answer this research question, this study consisted of two phases. Because some of the reward categories were quantitative in nature (such as remuneration, benefits, work‒life, performance recognition, and career development), there were hypotheses to be tested. All the key variables (including the qualitative concepts) could be measured quantitatively, using a Likert scale (which also increased objectivity); therefore, the positivism paradigm was applied in Phase I. In Phase II, as some aspects of rewards were naturally subjective and context-bound, had evolved from experience, and could change over time (from generation to generation), interpretivist assumptions were applied. The qualitative methodology enabled the researcher to make the study more comprehensive by gaining in-depth explanations and interpretations of the significant relationships found in Phase I, by asking why and how the relationships occurred. This aided validation of the results obtained in Phase I.

Research approach

This study was set to fill the gaps that were identified in the body of knowledge by critically reviewing the literature, which also guided the researcher in the following direction.
The researcher utilised a sequential mixed-method approach to explore and guide the evaluation of the reward categories of the WorldatWork (2015) Total Rewards Model in attracting and retaining, to determine changes needed to be made to this model in order to develop an effective total rewards framework for attraction and retention of the youth.
To address the diversity, validity, and reliability of responses from participants, a mixed methodology was necessary (Jupp, 2006). According to Halcomb and Andrew (2005), the use of multiple data sources and methods to cross-check and validate findings increases the depth and quality of the results to improve the consistency and accuracy of data by providing a more complete picture of the results received in the quantitative phase of the study.
The research approach that the researcher followed is described below. The approach ensured maximum control over the validity, reliability (Phase I), credibility, replicability, and transferability (Phase II) of the findings, describing how, why, when, and where data were collected to answer the research question and test the hypotheses.
In this descriptive and explanatory study, quantitative and qualitative data-collection techniques were used, that is, questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, which were required to explore and understand the outcomes. A sequential, exploratory, mixed-method design strategy was employed in the collection and analysis of the data. The qualitative results were used to explain and interpret the findings of the quantitative phase of the study (Creswell, 2013). Each of these activities occurred at different times. The tools and methodology employed are described below.

1.1. Introduction
1.2. Background information
1.3 Background to the problem and problem statement
1.4 Aim and objectives of the study
1.5 Rationale for the study
1.6 Current gaps in the literature that the study will address
1.7 Significance of the study
1.8 Research design and methodology
1.9 Overview of the report.
1.10 Conclusion
2.1. Introduction
2.2. Generational theory
2.3. The multi-generational workforce
2.4. Total reward systems
2.5. Life- and career-stage Models
2.6. Theories of motivation
2.7. Attraction and retention strategies
2.8. Categories and elements of rewards
2.9. Conclusion
3.1. Introduction and overview
3.2. Research philosophy
3.3. Research approach
3.4. Research methodology
3.5. Phase II: Qualitative research
3.6. Ethical considerations
3.7. Conclusion
4.1. Introduction
4.2. Demographic profile
4.3. Total rewards options
4.4. Associations between demographic characteristics and reward preferences
4.5. Study hypotheses
4.6. Factor analysis
4.7. Reliability
4.8. Total rewards framework for the youth
4.9. Conclusion
5.1. Introduction
5.2. Background
5.3. Qualitative findings
5.4. Attraction and Retention
5.5. Frequency and statistical analysis
5.6. Developed total rewards framework
5.7 Conclusion
6.1. Introduction
6.2. Discussion of results
6.3 Research objectives
6.4 Conclusion
6.5 Evaluation and limitations of the study
6.6 Original contribution of the study
6.7 Recommendations and policy implications
6.8 Future research opportunities

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