The modern workforce is currently composed of not one, but four generations: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Gen Z. And, it’s becoming increasingly evident that each generation is looking for different things when it comes to their work environment and job satisfaction factors. For instance, while Gen Z favors a better work/life balance with more paid time off, Millennials and Gen X are seeking higher salaries, and Boomers are motivated by more traditional benefits like health and 401K’s.
With so many differing ideals and motivators, fostering cohesion and avoiding conflict between these age groups is essential. So, how can today’s HR teams motivate, retain and manage employees from different generations with different attitudes and needs?
To answer that question, we decided to write a guide for every company recruiting different generations. The aim is to explain the generation gap, how it affects your recruiting strategies, and what tactics resonate best with each generation. It is our hope that by the end you will have a clear picture of each group’s motivation for work and how you can adjust everything from your employer branding to recruitment marketing efforts depending on which generation you’re hiring.
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What Differentiates the Four Generations Found in the Workforce Today?
One of the most significant factors that separate the generations is an adaptation to technology and the internet. Boomers adopted technology as older adults, while Gen X was the first to have access to personal computers. Meanwhile, Millennials and Gen Z are “digital natives” who have had internet access for most, if not all, of their lives. But the use of technology isn’t the only thing separating the generations. Read on to see what else separates them.
AKA Boomers, this generation is less concerned with company culture and prefers to know about day-to-day duties and how their experience can contribute to the organization. They like to hear about the why behind decisions, and how the results of their actions will support company success. These job seekers are looking for stability, good healthcare benefits, and the potential for flexible hours as they get closer to retirement.
What Boomers Look For in a Company
- Stability, as this demographic reaches retirement age they look for a feeling of security in their role within an organization.
- Flexible hours, as they get closer to retirement, many boomers seek part-time options or flexible hours.
- Healthcare benefits, as this group ages, healthcare coverage is an increasingly valuable benefit for them.
- Respect, this demographic prizes a show of respect for themselves and appreciation for their hard work.
Recruiting Strategies for Baby Boomers
- Don’t dismiss digital for this generation, they are still on mobile and desktop and have learned to utilize a variety of modern digital resources.
- Traditional offline media is still a strong influence for Boomers, they have a history of seeing print and radio as trusted sources.
- Get to the point, while Baby Boomers are generally interested in what an employer’s company culture is like, they have more interest in the day-to-day aspects of a role.
AKA the MTV Generation, Gen X candidates are generally considered mid-career and as such will be looking for growth opportunities, professional development, and clear paths for advancement. A strong work-life balance is essential to this group as job seekers in this generation may be caring for aging parents, children, or both. With the responsibilities on the figurate plate at home, healthcare and good retirement benefits have strong appeal for this demographic.
What Gen X is Looking For in a Company
- Growth opportunities, at this stage in their career, they are looking for growth and the ability to be a contributor.
- Work-life balance, Gen Xers value a balance between home, family, work, and paid time off.
- Stability and company values, it is important to this generation to understand the “why” of what your company does.
- Training and formal career path development, at the midpoint of their careers, they know what they want from the future and are looking to learn and grow towards their goals.
- Mentoring programs, Gen X has been in the workforce for a while and they are ready to be mentors and share their knowledge.
Recruiting Strategies for Generation X
- This demographic may not be as savvy as digital natives, but they are not far behind. They know how to utilize online sources and turn to them frequently.
- Text and emails are strong communication methods for this age group, 71% of Gen Xers utilize mobile in their job searches so text recruiting is a key element here.
- Focus on promoting a combination of company culture and the “day-to-day” aspects of the role.
To Millenials, AKA Generation Y, company culture and ethics are a top priority. Most Millennials want to work for businesses they can believe in and trust. This demographic thrives on social connections and wants to work for companies with strong internal cultures. They value perks like working from home WFH, free lunches, and gym memberships, in addition to affordable healthcare and flexible PTO.
What Millenials Look For in a Company
- Growth opportunities, this generation is still in the beginning stages of their careers and values learning experiences, however, unlike Gen X a formal career path may not necessarily be their goal.
- Mentorships, Millenials have been in the workplace long enough to recognize what they can gain from more experienced peers.
- Flexibility, this generation seeks a true work-life balance. With that in mind, they are more likely to gravitate to unique working approaches (remote working, custom hours, pet-friendly offices, gig work).
- Digital-first initiatives, as the first of the digital native generations, this age group is looking for technology-forward companies.
Recruiting Strategies for Millennials
- Company Culture, for Millenials, be sure to let your company culture shine. They will respond best to companies who promote themselves as a whole, not just the role.
- Benefits, this goes beyond just a 401K and health package. This generation is seeking PTO, flexible work schedules WFH, free lunches, gym memberships, and other unique offerings.
- Innovation, appeal to this generation with a show of tech-savvy recruiting, text recruiting, social recruiting and a solid recruitment marketing plan will draw this demographic to you.
- Millennials will shy away from any company that makes them feel like a “cog in the machine.” Showcase examples of how they can affect the company and how the company affects the community as a whole to resonate with Millennial job seekers.
AKA Zoomers, for this generation much like their Millennial counterparts, the ethics of your company will be an important factor for them. They’ll value the same perks as Millennials and typically thrive in all-digital environments or work-from-home setups. Interestingly, this generation is much less concerned with company culture and primarily seeks to be treated as equals amongst peers.
What Gen Z Looks For in a Company
- Learning opportunities, this generation is just entering the workforce. They may not yet know what they want in a career but they are excited to learn and grow.
- Flexibility, Gen Zers are more likely to gravitate toward WFH jobs or test out non-traditional career paths.
- Digital engagement, similar to millennials, as digital natives, this age group is looking for technology-forward companies and prizes digital communications.
Recruiting Strategies for Generation Z
- Perks and benefits, similar to Millennials, promote the unique perks and benefits your company offers beyond a 401K and health package to attract this demographic.
- Entrepreneurial goals, Gen Z is more likely to possess an entrepreneurial mindset. Provide them with examples of how they can make a difference and contribute beyond the day-to-day.
- Put your best digital foot forward, this generation has never known life without technology and will shy away from analog companies and processes.
Beyond the Generation Gap: Life & Career Stages
While appealing to the wants and needs of each generation can help recruitment, similar life, and career stages often transcend the generation gap in the workplace. Now that we’ve seen what makes each generation different, it’s time to talk about how they may be similar.
Some studies, like this one from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), suggest that career and life stages play a more significant role in workplace relationships, despite popular opinion on the matter. For example, apartment-dwelling Zoomers and Gen Xers who are single with no kids may have more in common than you would think. They may also have more similar goals and needs when compared to a Boomer or Millennial with a mortgage and a family. Similarly, Boomers who are changing careers and Zoomers just entering the workforce will both have to figure out how to navigate modern hiring processes and online interviews successfully. Additionally, they will both have the same goal of seeking out promotions to advance their new careers and increase their salaries.
Hiring the Right Candidate
A diverse mix of talent can help to create a fun and unique work environment so the goal should always be to maintain diversity in your staff. And, while tailoring your recruiting strategy to attract multigenerational candidates is essential, at the end of the day, you want the best of the best in terms of talent. Regardless of a candidate’s specific generation, look for the following three traits when making a hiring decision:
Regardless of generation, candidates should be informed and ready to talk about your company. They should be able to give detailed answers about the business, its background, and its purpose as well as have company-specific questions prepared for the interviewer.
Always look for candidates that show initiative. WFH and performing tasks with little supervision are often the new normal. Beyond training, potential candidates should be self-motivated to fulfill their roles. Asking interview questions about how candidates have taken initiative in the past or have thrived in a role with low supervision can help you make an informed hiring choice.
Look for job seekers who are genuinely interested in the position. Have they done any research into your industry? How are they keeping up with trends and technologies in this area? Employers can train skills, but you can’t teach enthusiasm. Therefore, candidates who display eagerness and a drive to succeed in their field or career are ideal.
Best Practices to Support a Diverse Team
To support a multigenerational workforce, HR teams need to be proactive in promoting a work environment that emphasizes inclusion.
Provide Multiple Communication Channels
One factor that does differ among the generations is communication preferences. Digital native Millennials and Zoomers might prefer text or video chats while Boomers may be more comfortable with calls and face-to-face interactions. To bridge the gap and create a collaborative workspace, offer a variety of communication channels so everyone can use their favorite communication methods as well as explore new options.
Offer Mentoring Programs
Setting up two-way mentorships among people in different age groups has several benefits. The concept centers on both parties sharing what they know with one another without a power struggle. By pairing an older worker with a younger employee, one might gain insights from the other’s extensive experience while inspiring a more tech-savvy approach to problem-solving.
Promote a Respectful Environment
Respecting workers regardless of age should be the cornerstone of your workplace culture. Acknowledging that both Boomers and Millennials have a wealth of knowledge and talent to bring to the table can break stereotypes. Placing value evenly among employees of varying generations can encourage collaboration. Treating everyone as equals will strengthen relationships among colleagues.
Avoid Making Assumptions
Always avoid making assumptions based on generational stereotypes. Assuming what people want, based either on preconceived notions can throw off the balance of your workplace.
Instead of guessing that a younger worker might want more vacation time as a benefit rather than working from home, take the time to ask them. As a general rule of thumb, taking the time to talk with employees about which incentives/benefits, processes, or communication styles they prefer will go a long way towards job satisfaction and retention.
By catering to different communication styles, offering two-way mentorships, emphasizing respect, and avoiding certain assumptions and stereotypes, companies can reduce conflicts between different age groups in the workplace.
Hiring managers might not be able to offer benefits that appeal to all of these demographics. To attract and recruit an age-diverse workforce use a multifaceted approach. Include a showing of benefits and perks, provide insight into day-to-day work tasks, and add an overview of your office culture.
When setting up your digital recruitment strategy to attract generations across the board, you can feel free to forgo print media. Boomers might not be digital natives, but most have smartphones, and many are active social media users. In addition to platforms like LinkedIn and social media, consider mobile and SMS recruiting. Using various media tactics and communication channels goes a long way toward maximizing your recruiting potential across different generations.
If you’re looking to diversify your workforce, Work4 is here to help. Our professionals are experts at navigating the constantly changing landscape of the talent acquisition industry. When looking to create a robust and diverse workplace, consider engaging with a firm like Work4 to truly strategize your recruitment process, job advertising, employer branding, and so much more to attract and retain the best talent – no matter their generation.