Employer brand team guide: How to attract and retain multiple generations in the workplace
Building a multi-generation workforce can be a powerful advantage for companies across the globe. But with different motivations, goals and expectations driving each generation, there’s mounting pressure and expansive ground to be covered by employer branding teams.
The only way to effectively recruit multiple generations is to have an in-depth understanding of who they are and how they differ in the first place. While the profiles and personas we outline below will help to guide your marketing and communication efforts, it’s always worth remembering that even if candidates fall into one of these categories, each person is an individual. It’s important not to generalise, alienate or make presumptions in your messaging, but instead use this insight as a steer to your various recruitment techniques.
Above all else, your recruitment campaigns and materials should be an honest reflection of what candidates can expect from your brand, your company and their future if they join. No matter which generation you hope to recruit and retain, they will not only want to bring something to your company, but understand what you’re going to do to keep them there.
This is not just about attraction with things that can’t be followed through on; the brand ethos and values needs to run through everything from the job posting itself, the campaigns promoting it and when the successful candidate gets recruited. People want to know what was ‘sold’ to them is going to be consistent and is authentically carried through to the stage of them being an employee, and this extends across multiple generations in the workplace.
With over 10,000 people retiring every day, companies need to ensure their employer brand team can find creative ways to attract employees. Here we provide some guidance when it comes to recruiting the next generation and what you should be considering to reap the most returns for your efforts.
How to recruit Baby Boomers
(Born between 1946 and 1964)
Most articles you’ll typically read discussing baby boomers and recruitment techniques will be talking about ‘how to replace your workforce when baby boomers retire’. But if we’re going to accurately identify how to recruit multiple generations in the workplace, it’s important we’re thorough.
Besides, the assessment that baby boomers are on the way out is an oversimplification. Remember - there are over 14 million baby boomers in the UK currently. Recruiting this generation can provide a number of qualities to benefit your workforce, namely:
- Leadership skills
- Unique perspectives
- Interpersonal skills
So, how do you approach attracting employees in this bracket? Well, elements you should incorporate into your recruitment packages for baby boomers include:
Structure and direction
As a general rule, baby boomers will not shy away from speaking their mind on ways a company can improve structurally. They have likely experienced numerous work environments and can offer valuable insight into the best ways to work they’ve encountered. As such, your recruitment techniques should illustrate that you prioritise two-way communication, and their ideas will be taken on board - perhaps offer opportunities to mentor your younger members of staff as well.
With 49% of baby boomers dissatisfied with their work-life balance, being able to sell your recruitment on a more flexible timetable will appeal to candidates of this generation. While personalities in this group remain driven, in their later life they will typically tend to prioritise time outside of work. Presenting that as something your brand prioritises will help you stand out over your competitors, either through flexible hours or part-time opportunities.
Stability in the workplace
Baby boomers are especially brand-loyal and team-oriented, and are therefore less likely to move on compared to their younger counterparts. So, if you can present through your recruitment process that your company is moving in a positive direction and you create a positive atmosphere where employees feel motivated and respected, you’ll appeal to this generation’s desire for stability.
Money may not the be-all-end-all for baby boomers that it is for the younger generations. Often they are looking for a new experience that they’ll enjoy, and will set them up for a comfortable retirement down the line. Being able to offer good incentives and training opportunities so they can continue to learn and feel wanted could prove more effective in your recruitment strategies than prioritising the salary package.
How to recruit Generation X
(Born between 1965 and 1976)
Offering a high level of experience and expertise, Generation X candidates remain a firm focus for organisations, especially those seeking managerial experience. Among the multiple generations in the workplace, Generation X will often carry the independence, self-reliance and critical thinking necessary to confidently push a company’s trajectory, as well as provide much-needed guidance to the younger recruits in your workforce.
An important note here is, while the online knowledge of baby boomers is often wildly under-appreciated, with 76% of Generation X using online platforms as their first port of call for finding job opportunities, you’ll need to adapt what channels you use to communicate with this group.
With useful abilities like adaptability, problem-solving and leadership available to support your team, how can you convince Generation X talent to join your ranks?
Emphasise a work-life balance
Among all workplace perks, many consider flexibility as the most highly valued among Generation X. Employees at this stage in life will likely need to balance multiple professional and personal responsibilities. It is no surprise that nearly half of all freelancers in the UK are in this age bracket. Demonstrating that you can provide them with this balance through remote working or other flexible incentives, you are in a better position to recruit and retain these team members.
Have a clear direction, but be open to change
This generation not only wants to know where you are now, but where you’re going and how you’re planning to get there. They are wilier and more sceptical than the more idealistic later generations, so you need to be able to demonstrate the path your company is on to convince these recruits to get on board. But, make sure these don’t come across as too rigid - Generation X workers will want to feel they can contribute and suggest changes in the pursuit of your company’s overarching objectives.
Offer growth and learning opportunities
From internal training on key skills to education funding, being able to put these front and centre of your recruitment techniques will help you stand out to these employees, who are often driven to learn as much as they can. They want to know how you will support them on their career path, and reassurance they can achieve their personal aims as part of your organisation. Convince them of this and you could be onto a winner.
Recognise and reward results
Generation X workers are incredibly result-driven and place importance on efficiency. Highlighting your reward programmes and how you celebrate achievements will likely go down well in attracting employees of this generation. All generations like to receive incentives to do well, but this is particularly important to more experienced workers looking to boost their own CVs and climb the ladder.
How to recruit Millennials / Gen Y
(Born between 1977 and 1997)
Of the multiple generations in your workforce, it’s arguable none have been written about more than Millennials, both in a positive and negative light. It’s easy to fall into traps when talking about recruiting Millennials over their naivety or lack of experience in comparison to the older generations we’ve spoken on. But this is far from the reality.
Tech-savvy, achievement-oriented and with a powerful desire to learn, recruiting Gen Y candidates requires a lot more thought and consideration. They expect a lot from brands, but if you deliver on these, you can recruit and retain team members that will carry your company forward for years or even decades.
So, what do Millennials in the workplace look for in an employer?
Encourage diversity and collaboration
Millennials in the workplace tend to place more emphasis on a brand’s values and identity than those in the older generations. Present through your recruitment techniques that you place a firm emphasis on diversity and equality, and that recruits will be part of a collaborative, motivated team that will fulfil their desire to learn and grow. That will speak to them in a far stronger way than salary rates and other traditional incentives.
Concentrate on the here and now
While Generation X workers place a focus on where your company is going, Millennials tend to be only interested in the present day. That’s due to a desire not to be tied down immediately - presenting your 10-year plans as part of your recruitment techniques could scare them off! Instead focus on work-life balance, skills and experience they can gain with your company in the first years with the company to pique their interest.
Present flexible work arrangements
However, like Generation X workers, recruiting Gen Y requires a focus on flexible working hours and conditions. It is of course important to maintain traditional financially-driven perks and benefits, but Millennials’ greater familiarity with technological innovations means that they are more likely to demand remote working opportunities. Your recruiting techniques should illustrate the overall experience your workplace will offer them, beyond the nuts and bolts of the role itself.
Highlight your causes
Finally, it is no secret that Millennials place a much higher value on a potential employer’s CSR values. When they think of perks, they consider employee wellness plans, company charity initiatives, social outings, environmental impact and similar aspects. Appealing to these elements of your brand identity in your recruitment materials gives you a far greater chance of engaging with this generation.
How to recruit Gen Z
(Born after 1997)
The newest of the multiple generations active in the workplace, recruiting Gen Z workers to your team is something all organisations will need to start prioritising.
This generation is as digitally-driven as it gets - it is the first generation that can’t remember life before the Internet was widely available. As such, they are hypervisual, resilient and less entitled than prior generations. They find it more difficult to see the distinctions between the digital and “real” world, and subsequently between work and home.
As this bracket encompasses a big part of the future workforces of all companies, how do you go about recruiting Gen Z?
Highlight your meaningful work
Generation Z carry a powerful, impressive work ethic, and want to know that the work that they’ll do as part of your team is both rewarding and meaningful. Many Gen Z workers would be interested in taking on multiple roles under their employment, due to their desire to learn and grow quickly. Focusing on the ways they will be challenged and how their work makes a difference will be a strong motivator for joining your team.
Present employee experiences
Like Millennials, recruiting Gen Z workers requires you to emphasise perks beyond the traditional workplace incentives. Their demand for a more custom, personalised candidate experience and interest in a brand’s social responsibilities need to be considered as part of your recruitment process, so you can connect with them on a deeper level than simply financial. An inclusive atmosphere is also essential to promote.
Offer training opportunities
Robust professional development opportunities are essential to Gen Z. They are the YouTube generation - they are always looking for ways to feed their craving for on-demand learning. Being able to demonstrate your CPD processes and perks like education-based reimbursements will set your brand above your competitors, so they can fulfil their desire to always learn and grow as part of a workforce.
Focus on flexible working
For Gen Z, the traditional borders between work and home don’t apply as they have in the past. Today, the next generation of recruits are elevating flexibility over stability in their priority list, and your recruitment techniques need to demonstrate that to meet their goals. Being digital natives with a strong appreciation of remote working, this is something that will encourage them to align with your organisation.
Dealing with multiple generations in the workplace
Avoid conflict by understanding and being accommodating where possible
We’re sure the people you hire will have at least a basic level of human respect, regardless of generation. But should you notice surfacing issues or legacy employees creating problems, it’s important to nip this in the bud before it escalates. People won’t always be honest about their internal gripes, so it’s essential to give them a confidential platform to air these frustrations.
Let’s take a hypothetical scenario as an example:
Some millennials in the workplace feel frustrated by the older employees refusing to adapt to new technology or them shutting down what the millennials consider to be ‘better ways of working’.
You need to consider a number of factors in this situation:
- Are the millennials frustrated by the situation, or the way the person is handling the situation?
- Are the claims justified or an overreaction?
- Is there a lack of respect from the older employees, and the way they are addressing the younger employees’ suggestions? Conversely, is the younger employees’ approach in line with how you think it should be?
- Could the new technology and ‘better ways of working’ save significant time and money? Or is the way the older employees complete the same tasks sufficient?
- Do the benefits and skills of having the older employee on your team outweigh this single example of a ‘stuck in their ways’ attitude? And if so, is it worth increasing tensions?
In this situation, there are multiple things that need to be done once you’ve considered all of the above. If your verdict isn’t in favour of the millennial employees, you need to make sure their frustrations are taken into reasonable account and discuss just how much this is affecting their working day. If it’s a small problem, it can be resolved without further action, but perhaps with an ongoing review of the issue should it escalate. If for them it’s greatly affecting them, perhaps you could find some middle ground with both parties.
If your verdict is in favour of the millennial employees, then you need to understand why there is resistance from the older employees. Perhaps they don’t fully appreciate that they are qualified to make these kinds of suggestions or just how much time it will save them in the long run. They may be reluctant to learn a new skill because the way they’re doing it works just fine, but perhaps a collaborative, top-down discussion could help them see the light.
Ultimately, if neither parties see the other’s point of view with any clarity, there could be overarching communication issues. It’s important to encourage mutual respect and nurture team dynamics where possible, whether that’s through team-building days, mentoring, CPD sessions or creating unlikely but successful pairings for projects. If problems continue to arise with the same people, you should consider whether it’s actually a generational difference or a case of an employee being difficult for the sake of it.
Break down stereotypes
While we have provided broad personas and attributes of each generation, when it comes down to it, be it baby boomers or millennials in the workplace, not everyone can be tarred with the same brush.
Try to highlight what people have in common, and create initiatives which all generations can thrive and take part in. This might include an internal points leaderboard, giving different people responsibility in planning social events, and creating knowledge sharing sessions where different generations get an opportunity to talk about their experiences and expertise within the industry.
These will all work to melt away barriers and help people start to see their colleagues as equals, as opposed to the things that make them different.
Encourage cross-generation learning and mentoring
Different generations bring with them a vast and far-reaching range of skill sets. Introducing CPD sessions or mentoring partnerships will not only open employees up to new ways of thinking and learning, but also build relationships and help different ages see things through the eyes of their counterparts.
Don’t alienate through the wrong communication channels
Earlier in this article we outlined the various communication methods each generation is more likely to engage with. While it’s important not to generalise, there are different ways you could help accommodate this in your organisation.
Firstly, you could send out a survey to see which methods people prefer, or speak to them in person to gain a general consensus. Once you have this, you can pick the 2 or 3 most popular methods and make sure your team communicates how and why you have chosen to send company updates in this way. They can also be responsible for making sure all specified channels are used to send messages of importance.
Don’t be afraid of mixing generations when building teams
Of course, having the right skill sets in the right teams will take priority over anything else, but should you find yourself unsure about how to split teams, striking a balanced mix of age groups is something that could be beneficial.
Different ages bring different experience, expertise and viewpoints. Broadly speaking, where millennials in the workplace may suffer from a weakness, others may have this as a strength, and vice versa. Seeing mixed-generation groups as an opportunity for growth as opposed to conflict is an important mindset to adopt.
Ask for feedback if things aren’t working
You can bend over backwards and tick all the generational boxes until you’re blue in the face but the reality is that every team is different and you can’t always get it right. If your efforts have become futile, admit defeat but don’t throw in the towel just yet. Speak to a cross-section of employees about the issues that have arisen and the ways in which they could be resolved. Create an open forum of suggestions and encourage peer feedback where possible.
3 reasons to have multiple generations in the workplace
Attracting multiple generations to your workplace
Hopefully this has offered you a useful breakdown of the different generations of workers currently in the job market, and what your brand should be doing to appeal to them. As noted earlier, while this provides a guide across current trends and behaviours, it’s vital to remember each potential recruit is an individual, and will be looking for different qualities in a preferred employer.
However, no matter which generation you are targeting and what benefits you present, one characteristic that must be present across your recruitment techniques is consistency. While your employer branding will be tweaked to address the specific concerns facing every generation, they still need to drive your brand’s vision, personality and objectives authentically and effectively.
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