How to Recruit A Multi-Generational Workforce: Part 2

Small Business Applicant Tracking SystemFive generations, working together. Five very different attitudes, lifestyles, motivations and perspectives thrown together in the workplace melting pot. This multi-generational workforce has a huge amount to offer, but it also brings unique challenges for HR professionals.

What do these differences mean for motivation and performance? Can the CEO hope to communicate in a meaningful way with graduate hires? Can your company brand, values and messages be distilled so that everyone buys into them?

In part 1 of this two-part series, we gave an overview of each of the generations in broad brush-stroke terms, and how using a small business applicant tracking system can help. Now it’s time to apply those distinctions.

Think of this as you would a CEO studying human psychology or the BD Director taking a course on negotiation. There’s no one-size-fits-all. Individuals are individuals, but a broad understanding of generational difference is profitable.

#1 – Work/Life Balance

The Trend

As we said in part 1, one of the major generational differences in the workforce today is an emphasis on work/life balance. Moving away from Traditionalist and Boomer values, Gen X has led the flexibility charge and Gen Y and Z have continued it.

The days of 9-5 days are, if not over, certainly waning and employees increasingly expect to work in the way that is most convenient – and productive – for them.

In fact, NGenera Insight has found that half of Millennials and nearly 40% of Gen X consider flexible working a critical factor when accepting a role.

What Does It Mean For You?

Flexible working policies are absolutely critical attraction and retention tools. In the workplaces of the future, work-life balance will become a major differentiator of success.

However, one of the major challenges HR professionals face is a potential lack of senior buy-in to these ideas. Senior leadership positions with policy decision-making power are often held by Traditionalist and Boomer workers who might not prioritize flexible working.

It’s necessary to start with the definition of ‘work’. Technological advance has changed the meaning of work, both what it is and where we do it. As a result, it’s critical that we define success in terms of result, not in terms of method. For many roles, flexible working would in no way hinder employees’ success therein.

HR professionals can engage senior decision-makers on these terms, by rethinking role definitions from the ground-up. If HR can prove that employee productivity and performance will not dip if flexible working is introduced, that’s dissolving a major barrier to implementation. New measures and accountability are needed, to ensure flexible-workers are evaluated fairly for their true contribution, not their face-time in office.

Remember too that flexible working can take many forms. There is scope to find flexible working policies that work for each individual organisation, from flextime to compressed working to job-shares.

#2 – Communication Methods

The Trend

Traditionalists and Gen Z are lifetimes apart, literally. One of the most obvious ways this manifests itself is in differing communication methods. Younger workers are generally very tech savvy, and place a large emphasis on social media. In contrast, older workers might shy away from casual, immediate interaction and prefer more formal communication methods.

For example, Traditionalists might prefer memos and scheduled meetings, where Gen Y might prefer to grab a coffee with their manager if there’s important feedback to be had.

Differences in communication style and preference can mean employees struggle to communicate impactfully across generations. If workers from different generations are not able to speak in terms that are understood at all levels, performance and motivation will suffer. Did you know that communicating with potential new hires is easy with Recruiteze? Our free small business applicant tracking system incorporates unlimited email templates to make this task simple and efficient.

What Does It Mean For You?

Small Business Applicant Tracking SystemOrganisations must strive to understand and embrace different communication methods at all levels. HR leaders must work at senior level to ensure younger workers are not being underrepresented and misunderstood.

A positive step is to form cross-generational focus groups, to discuss how to frame important company wide communications. Different communication methods should be embraced and, where possible, employees given a choice of how to digest their information.

For instance, you could make an announcement via company intranet, send a company wide bulletin by email and offer an optional meeting to discuss the announcement in person.

It could also be productive to offer cross-generational training sessions that focus on communication. Teaching employees how to frame benefits in contextually meaningful terms across generation is likely to pay dividends in terms of greater organisational fluidity.

#3 – Rewards & Recognition

The Trend

We said in part 1 that the stereotype of Millennials as entitled is likely unfair, but there is an important point here. Younger generations, particularly Millennials, are generally thought of as being much more expectant of reward and recognition for work. Traditionalists might slog away dutifully and Boomers might tend to be more intrinsically motivated to work hard, but Millennials tend to expect more extrinsic recognition.

In fact, over 60% of Millennials say they feel undervalued because their hard work isn’t recognized in the workplace.

What Does It Mean For You?

If your workforce doesn’t feel adequately rewarded and recognized they’ll be less motivated and perform less effectively. Most businesses have something to learn from sales, where high-performance is rewarded transparently with a range of incentives.

One of the biggest problems here is that senior leaders will often think they offer sufficient rewards and recognition. If this is not in a format which appeals to workers, though, the program will miss the mark.

An easy solution to this is to introduce a feedback loop where employees can give insight into, or even choose, the rewards that appeal to them most. If your organisation knows what each employee most wants, you’re best placed to give exactly that to them.

The other issues when it comes to rewards and recognition is the criteria by which achievement is measured. An employee who feels they’ve poured their blood, sweat and tears into a project is likely to feel undervalued if they’re subsequently not recognized because the project didn’t achieve forecasted results.

Nonetheless, there is obviously a balance to be struck here as recognition can easily become devalued if given too easily. A sensible way to increase recognition might be to introduce a high-touch management program. This would give employees face-time with management weekly, for both positive and negative feedback.

There’s nothing to say recognition has to be consistently positive – the Millennial stereotype rears its ugly head again! Rather, younger workers are much less likely to tolerate feeling like a cog in a machine than their predecessors, so more hands-on management is generally necessary.

#4 – Career Progression

The Trend

Traditionally, career progression has been seen as something you earn on a time-served basis. The traditional promotion path was strictly hierarchical, and by its nature a waiting game down succession lines. Not so anymore.

Younger generations expect a more novel approach to career progression, where merit earns greater responsibility. The path needn’t be purely hierarchical, and can encompass lateral, downward, inter-office and global movement.

What Does It Mean For You?

Organisations will struggle to attract, retain and engage employees from younger generations if they cannot prove commitment to career progression. Heavily structured and siloed organisations can struggle with this the most.

HR professionals should conduct interviews with all employees to build an understanding of their individual career goals. This enables you to compensate for multi-generational differences in a sensitive way.

A personal development plan will help employees feel they are progressing on their own terms, on the career trajectory they have chosen.

Encourage your organisation to embrace a transparent system of accountability, so employees can easily see what they need to do to realize their career objectives. The key here is to put responsibility for and control over career progression with the employee, not the organisation. It is vital that employees feel they can earn promotion on their own terms.

An outside-the-box attitude to career progression is critical here. You don’t have to have 10 open directorships to reward someone looking to progress into a director-level role.

Instead, look at ways to give individuals the increased responsibility and breadth they aspire to. Mentorships, inter-office transfers, project responsibility – these things can all prove your commitment to helping your employees grow. That’s the vital thing here.

The Upshot

Small Business Applicant Tracking SystemIf you want to recruit multi-generational talent, the first and most important step is to understand multi-generational talent. Each generation tends to have different attitudes, aspirations, priorities and ways of communicating. Until you understand the general differences between them, you can’t create an impactful multi-generational talent acquisition, retention and management strategy.

Accordingly, one potential solution that comes up time and again is to introduce a multi-generational focus group to discuss these issues. The importance of this really can’t be overstated. By gathering together different minds from different generations across your business, you can foster an environment in which everyone feels heard.

Getting the multi-generational workforce right might take some work, and is bound to have some pitfalls along the way. Most importantly, though, is that your employees feel that you’re tangibly committed to trying harder. Proving your willingness to listen is one of the most important things you can do, and sets an important precedent.

Free Small Business Applicant Tracking System and Recruiting Software

One of the easiest ways to recruit and retain workers from different generations is by using our free small business applicant tracking system. If you’re wanting to spend less time completing your redundant recruiting tasks, start using Recruiteze today. After all, it’s FREE!