Curmudgeonly Boomers, Skeptical Xers, Entitled Millennials – even a few Traditionalists and members of Gen Z – all occupy the working population. A multigenerational workforce brings diverse viewpoints, differing skill sets, and a mix of experience and eagerness. But finding and managing this extraordinary talent is not successful without strategy.
That diversity comes with its own challenges. In order to cultivate the benefits of an age-diverse workplace, you must recruit fairly and with intention and then continue to foster an engaging environment of understanding.
T-T-Talking ‘bout my Generation
Three generations make up almost all of the workforce: (dates vary according to the source, but generally speaking)
Baby Boomers (born from 1946 to 1964)
- Teamwork and cooperation
Generation X (born from 1965 to 1980)
- Balances work and personal life
Millennials (born from 1981 to 2000)
- Meaningful work
- Diversity and change valued
- Technology savvy
(American Psychological Association)
These stereotypes serve as a quick fix for understanding. However, the New Kids on the Block, the forgotten Middle Children, and the “get off my lawn” Elders can often be mischaracterized. Shared experience leads to similar characteristics and behaviors, but they should not dismiss employees as dynamic humans.
Relying too heavily on these can create an implicit bias, leading to unfair and ineffective hiring and management tactics. At worst, these stereotypes can lead to discrimination and/or a failure to understand your employees beyond the dimension of age.
Luckily, while employees of different generations are different, they’re not that different. And there are one-size-fits-all tactics that you can employ that can create a fair and engaging environment for everyone involved.
How you find candidates, and how you engage them pre-hire, will affect your age diversity. Make sure you are prepared.
Never under or overestimate a candidate’s ability to find you.
The Online Revolution
Finding and being found by age-diverse candidates requires presence. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 54% of Americans researched jobs online, and 45% have applied for a job online – more than double the number in 2005. Candidates of all ages are continuing the migration into the digital age.
When creating an online job posting, your language will make all the difference. Be aware of age-discriminating phrases, like “recent graduates” or “old-school.”
In addition to the basics of the position, include information about internal practices and cultural fit, candidly and objectively. Be honest about workplace practices and culture – not everyone is looking for a ping pong table and casual attire.
Once they see your online job posting, they are likely going to check your website and social media pages. Prepare your website to greet them – begin with updating your website with the most accurate information about your organization, including cultural practices.
You don’t necessarily need a custom app, but you do need to ensure that your website and respective job postings across platforms are mobile-friendly. Make sure to test your mobile-capability for yourself from the jobseeker’s point of view.
Jobseekers are also likely to look to your social media pages to get a better feel for your company, especially sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn. Currently, social media use expands to all generations.
% of US Adults who use at least one social media site:
Age 18 -29: 86%
Age 30-49: 80%
Age 50-64: 64%
Age 65+: 34%
Even if they do not have an active profile on that site, jobseekers will be able to see those pages via a Google search. They will look to your Facebook, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and Instagram pages for more information and a candid look inside. Actively update and maintain your social media pages, and make sure your organization’s values and culture shines through, and gives an accurate and honest look into your workplace.
Some Things Never Go Out of Style…
However, online techniques, while easier, may alienate older candidates or those without regular internet access. If you are only receiving attention from a certain age group, this technique may not be fair. Be sure to utilize more “traditional” methods of recruiting, including job fairs, referrals, and print ads. Partnering with an organization like Ultimate Staffing can ensure a wider influence and a fairer candidate audience, and efficiently fill a position.
Interviews are your first opportunity to broaden your understanding of a candidate.
In interviewing, once again, be wary of language. It’s not illegal to ask how old someone is, but it can make them feel uncomfortable.
Avoid phrases like these, some of them are rude, some are illegal:
- How old are you?
- You’re overqualified.
- When do you plan on retiring?
- In my experience, Boomers/Xers/ Millennials are…
- You have too much energy/not enough energy.
- Do you have children? Do you plan to?
- Do you think you’re old enough to handle this responsibility?
- We know young people tend to job hop…
- When did you graduate?
- What’s your childcare arrangement?
Good thing there are plenty of other things to discuss in an interview. All jobseekers want to know more about your organization. The interview is your chance to dazzle them as well. Regardless of age, jobseekers want fair pay, comprehensive benefits, and a complementary work culture. Throw these conversation topics around like confetti.
Don’t assume that only candidates of a certain age group are interested in certain programs. Lay out all programs and allow for plenty of questions.
In a survey of more than 200 HR professionals, 90% of respondents rated recruiting for culture fit as “very important” to “essential.” Be sure to include culture-based questions and provide honest information about the culture. Don’t skew perceptions of your culture based on the candidate. Make sure their first day – and career – will be everything it’s promised to be.
As you get to know candidates, remember that age can limit exposure to certain practices and experiences. However, you can teach skills (to an extent), you can’t teach culture fit. Your organization’s values know no age. If a candidate is a stellar culture fit, don’t pass them over – no one is too young or old to learn anything.
Before, after, and during the interview, take moments of selfassessment: am I making fair inferences? You can fight stereotypes simply by reflecting on any biases. If you feel as though you cannot interview fairly, it’s best to ask for assistance.
Once you have recruited this fabulous, culturally sound, age-diverse workforce, dedicated practices will keep them engaged and turnover low.
Involved, passionate employees are more productive, more profitable, and build your organization’s culture. Engaged workers consistently outperform non-engaged employees. They provide better service to your customers, remain loyal longer, and are better teammates.
However, it’s unrealistic to have custom policies for certain coworkers. Fortunately, engaging programs and policies know no age limit.
According to Quantum Workplace, while there are many factors of engagement, they can be narrowed down to three themes:
- Confidence in Leadership
- The Organization’s Commitment to Valuing Employees
- Positive Outlook on the Future
This research coincides with our own internal research for employee engagement. We found the 3 main drivers of employee engagement to be:
- “I have confidence in my leaders’ directions and decisions”
- “Work culture brings out the best in me”
- “[The organization] is interested in my growth and development”
Engagement is crucial for all employees, but there is no quick fix. However, the practices you implement will contribute to that engagement.
Programs will serve as the base, but engagement is solidified though everyday efforts and interactions. Active efforts of inclusion go beyond the diversity of representation and create cohesive, efficient, and dynamic teams.
These programs can cater to all employees while serving their unique needs.
Pay & Benefits
Employees cannot even begin to look towards engagement if their most basic needs are not met. Provide comprehensive benefits and be sure to calculate salaries objectively, focusing on experience and skill rather than age. To ensure fairness, check out our 2017 Salary Guide here.
All people have an optimal stress point, where an individual has enough stress to be motivated but not so much that they become overwhelmed. Boomers are more likely to occupy senior leadership roles and be overwhelmed, while Millennials in entrylevel jobs may not have enough. Create an open dialogue and share responsibilities to moderate stress.
Your employees have a lot to learn from one another. Create mentor and reverse mentor programs to increase exposure and teamwork. Retention is 25% higher for employees who have engaged in company-sponsored mentoring. (Deloitte)
Lead with Transparency
Transparent leadership and practices promote fairness, reduce jealousy, and boost connectedness.
Structured Career Paths
Regardless of where they are in their careers, there are always opportunities for growth. Amongst engaged employees, 96% have a clear idea of what is expected of them and 81% say their supervisor takes an interest in their career development (Quantum Workplace). Knowing exactly what is expected of them helps everyone get ahead, and can reduce jealousy and misunderstandings surrounding promotions and growth.
Recognition Amongst engaged employees, 83% receive recognition for a job well done (Quantum Workplace). It’s not only millennials who want recognition, 50% of employees who don’t feel valued plan to look for another job in the next year. Create a structured program to praise and recognize employees. For more information and tips on recognition, check out our White Paper here.
Ongoing Education and Training
Technology is developing and advancing all the time, be sure coworkers of all ages have the opportunity to learn before they are replaced.
Promote a dialogue and survey frequently so employees can voice their opinions and concerns. Survey to understand employees rather than evaluate how you are doing. Then respond appropriately and take action based on those results, do not allow issues to fester. According to TNS Employee Insights, 70% of those employees who are engaged agree that their organization takes action based on survey results.
It’s not mandatory for employees to participate, it’s mandatory for you to create opportunities. Allow for coworkers to intermingle in relaxed environments away from work. This can include happy hours, volunteer efforts, and team competitions. Know that people tend to socially prefer people closer to their own age, so create dedicated efforts to encourage employees to get to know one another.
Once those programs are implemented, it’s up to leadership and team managers to create a fair environment. They set the tone and foster day to day collaboration and are champions for inclusion.
Can’t we all just get along?
Raised with different parenting methods, historical events, technological advances, and general experiences, conflict is inevitable – but not insurmountable.
The villain is not time or each other, it’s a lack of communication and understanding. Don’t allow yourself to get absorbed into the stereotypical generational differences, instead focus on the real root of the problem and utilize traditional methods of conflict resolution.
For instance, if an Xer is frustrated with a Millennial’s lack of ability to work independently, the problem is likely not that the Millennial needs constant validation and participation trophies. It is more likely that the Millennial did not receive the training that they needed. Use generational stereotypes to understand, not condemn or dismiss.
The Responsibility of Inclusion
To promote inclusion, keep an eye out for teammates who may be treating other employees unfairly, and promote plenty of teamwork and collaboration. Let employees be their authentic selves, but discourage exclusionary behaviors.
Unite your team towards a common cause. All generations are looking for meaning in their work. A shared purpose goes beyond our understanding of age. To learn more about facilitating a shared purpose, read our White Paper here.
Generational differences are nothing new. We have worked through them in the past and will continue to do so. However, with dedicated efforts and programs, we can make teams even more efficient and effective.
Tips from Within
James Sense is a Regional Vice President for Roth Staffing Companies (parent company of Ultimate Staffing Services). He manages several teams across Southern California, with ages ranging from recent college graduates to some of Ultimate Staffing’s most tenured coworkers. Check out his tips for managing a multigenerational workforce:
“Managing different generations can sometimes be difficult, but I have found that if we learn to recognize strengths within the generations, we can take advantage of these strengths to unite as one unstoppable team. The more we can collaborate, intermixing different generations and viewpoints, the more the teams will learn what the tenured coworkers can offer and the tenured coworkers can learn from the newer coworkers new ideas of doing the same tasks. I think as a manager today, we have to focus on the overall result, not how it gets done.”