Diversity is our strength. This is as true in the workforce as it is in our broader society. And yet, for many recruiters, pursuing age diversity in the workplace can be a formidable challenge. At the root of these difficulties, however, is not a lack of talent among the various age groups. Rather, it’s often a lack of understanding of the unique recruiting needs of each generation that is to blame. But what can recruiters do, exactly, to retain a strong, age-diverse workforce?
Why recruiting from a multigenerational talent pool matters
If you’re a recruiter, you may be wondering why you should be concerned with building a multigenerational workforce. After all, finding qualified employees is difficult enough without factoring in the question of age.
However, the reality is that diversity in every form yields enormous benefits for your company. This includes age diversity. Each generation brings with it its own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. And if you are drawing only from one or two age demographics, you are necessarily embedding deficiencies in your workforce.
And when you have such gaps in your talent pool, you will inevitably be putting employees in roles for which they are not ideally suited. That’s going to lead to underperformance and, in many cases, other staffing issues such as high employee turnover. This is simply because no employee can be expected to want to stay long in a job where they are struggling, a job that does not match their particular talents.
When you recruit from an age-diverse talent pool, though, you mitigate such concerns because you will be able to harness the unique gifts of each generation.
Related reading: learn how to recruit Generation Z
Understanding generational differences
It may not be surprising to find five generations represented in a given business environment in the modern workplace, with Millennials topping the list at 35%. But just because they’re all working for the same employer does not mean that they were all recruited, trained, and retained in the same way, and the savvy HR leader knows it.
Indeed, a closer look at the diverse generations currently in the labor force reveals a range of significant differences that can profoundly impact talent recruitment.
Perhaps the most important of these differences are variations in the different generations’ expectations for and practices regarding communicating with prospective employers. According to Purdue, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers appreciate the most efficient means of communication, such as phone calls and face-to-face meetings; while the younger generations, in deference to their status as digital natives, prefer digital and mobile communications.
Older generations, including members of the Baby Boomer generation, also tend to align more with the traditionalist demographic, often preferring to explore job prospects through more tried and true methods, such as classified ads, employment agencies, and referrals.
On the other hand, younger generations, such as Millennials and Generation Zers, usually expect much higher levels of engagement with prospective employers. Above all, these digital natives generally prefer to communicate through technology, from online job boards to employer websites to social media and SMS. Indeed, the latter two channels appear to be the most favorable for recruiting younger candidates.
Where all this communication can fall down among the generations is through misunderstanding. There can be significant gaps between the generations and how they prefer to communicate. For example, things like intention can be lost in translation from a text from one generation to another uncomfortable with the informality of the technology.
Addressing age bias
Another crucial aspect of effective recruiting from a multigenerational labor pool is learning to recognize and remediate age bias in one’s own recruiting practices. This is not always easy, as such biases often operate at the unconscious level.
After all, very few of us want to believe that we are discriminating. Nevertheless, even when the discrimination is unintended, the effects of our chosen recruiting practices may result in de facto age discrimination just the same, resulting in a generationally homogeneous workforce.
For instance, if you are not actively seeking out older workers using the specific channels through which they are most likely to be engaged (i.e. classified ads or other more traditional forms of recruiting), then by default your job search is likely going to skew toward a younger pool of candidates.
This is why it is essential to meet your multigenerational job seekers where they are. Instead of relying largely or exclusively on online forums for your candidate search, for example, use a more comprehensive approach, including one that specifically targets Gen Z and Baby Boomers, and older.
Understanding generational expectations
Recruiting effectively from diverse generations will also require you to recognize the diverse expectations that employees from different age groups are likely to have for their jobs.
For example, younger workers tend to have much higher expectations for their employers, particularly concerning social and emotional needs. Specifically, Millennials and Generation Z are particularly likely to require that their employer cultivate a socially responsible brand and to expect that their work will in some way align with their ideological perspectives and moral values.
In addition, younger workers often expect to cultivate strong emotional ties with their employers. This often includes the expectation that employers will support workers in cultivating mental health and attaining an ideal work/life balance.
On the other hand, older workers often perceive their relationship with their employers as being more formal, professional, and transactional. For these workers, considerations such as social justice and corporate responsibility, employees’ social/emotional needs, and work/life balance questions may hold relatively little weight.
And because different generations will have their own ideas on what they need, want, and expect from an employer, you will need to tailor your recruiting strategies in response to those variations if you want to cultivate age diversity.
Thus, while social responsibility may be a prominent theme when pursuing Millennial and Generation Z candidates, more formal content, including salaries and benefits packages, should define your content when reaching out to Boomers and older candidates.
Age diversity will be a tremendous source of strength for your organization. However, recruiting from a multigenerational talent pool is not always easy. It requires skills, strategy, and effort. This should include understanding and addressing each generation’s unique communication patterns, expectations, and requirements. Armed with this knowledge, you can meet your ideal candidates where they are, addressing their interests and needs in the ways that engage them best. And that means that you can truly harness each generation’s best and highest talents for your workforce!