Candidates of each generation have different approaches to job hunting, work-life balance, and work productivity -- among other aspects of work. Most differences are subtle and sometimes just a matter of communication style, individual interpretation, and life stages.
However, other differences are based on life goals and priorities, often more than subtle across the generations. Whether generational differences are subtle or not, employers need to know their audience when recruiting -- for both message and medium of delivery.
When recruiting across the generations, pull out the critical elements of the company and the job that will resonate the most with the candidate you want to attract. For instance, you may wish to stress job security to Baby Boomers, while Gen Z prefers flexibility. Additionally, Facebook or LinkedIn may be ideal mediums for Baby Boomers, but TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram fit Gen Z better.
Baby Boomers, while Gen Z are just the working “bookend” generations. In between, we have the smaller Gen X generation as well as Millennials -- the largest generation in the workforce at the moment. Each of these generations also have their own work approaches, often differing from the generations surrounding them.
Since companies are looking to hire talent across the board, hiring practices must include all candidates -- no matter their age. Since there’s no “one size fits all” strategy for recruiting, companies will need to find a balance between recruiting for the role’s needs, the fit for the company, and the fit for the candidate.
In this article, you’ll learn statistics around generational hiring, why it’s essential to have strategies in place for generational recruiting, why knowing your audience is crucial, the benefits of tailoring your hiring strategy, and more.
A Generational Snapshot
By the Numbers
Before we jump into generational recruiting strategies, it would be helpful to look at each of the four generations -- Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z -- and where they stand in the workforce, along with some projections for the future of work.
According to Pew Research Center, as of July 1, 2019, Millennials edged out Baby Boomers in the workplace, as Millennials numbered 72.1 million to Boomers 71.6 million. The Millennial generation is expected to peak at 74.9 million in 2033, as immigrant populations add to this age group. This is quite a feat for Millennials, as Baby Boomers had the bragging rights as the “largest living generation” until 2019.
Generation X, wedged between Millennials and Boomers, numbered 65.2 million in 2019, projected to pass the Boomer population by 2028. Often referred to as the “Middle Child of the Generations” or the “Forgotten Generation,” this generation only spans 17 years, where most other generations span 20.
Bringing up the rear, Gen Z is about to take front and center in the workforce in the coming years. According to Business Insider, Gen Z represents the largest and most diverse generation of the four, with the oldest of this generation graduating from college and entering the workforce.
COVID’s Impact on Generational Employment
The global pandemic has had a significant impact on generational employment. For example, before COVID, an average of two million Boomers retired annually since 2011 (the first year that Boomers turned 65 years old). However, COVID accelerated some Boomer retirements, with 3.2 million more Baby Boomers retiring in the third quarter of 2020 than in the third quarter of 2019, according to Pew. With the massive Boomer exodus, organizations globally are losing significant amounts of intellectual capital, experience, and industrial knowledge.
As Baby Boomers retire, Millennials and Gen Z have the longest work road ahead of them as the two youngest generations. According to the Urban Institute, “nearly one in five young millennials and Gen Z adults (19.5 percent) reported they or their spouse or partner experienced layoffs since the pandemic began.” Also, because of the pandemic, these generations are concerned about employment insecurity and less-predictable earnings. As a result, they are often “the first to be cut in economic downturns,” like the one facing us these past 18 months.
Gen X, smack dab in the middle of their career, may be facing their biggest unemployment crisis, according to a 2021 study. Specifically, the study found that Gen X is facing “increased barriers [to employment] due to biases among hiring managers, as well as reluctance among workers to learn new skills.”
Adding to the above, the American Psychological Association, Gen Z adults “were the most likely generation to say that their mental health has worsened compared with before the pandemic,” reflected at 46 percent, with Gen X coming in second at 33 percent, Millennials coming in third at 31 percent, and Boomers in fourth at 28 percent. No matter how you slice these statistics, employees across all generations are affected.
There’s a lot to process here for recruiting professionals, as the impacts of COVID lie on top of already varying generational preferences. However, as we enter one of the most competitive job markets in recent history, recruiting professionals need to ensure that they recruit from all age groups inclusively.
So, where to start? We recommend starting with a similar approach to internal communication for generational recruiting: tailor your message and medium to the audience you want to reach. Read on to learn about how to recruit across the generations.
HOW TO RECRUIT ACROSS GENERATIONS
First and foremost: Know your audience!
- Identify whom you are trying to reach.
- Baby Boomers may want to share their knowledge and experience, so try promoting ways to contribute to the organization’s growth and maintenance. Also, keep in mind that some Boomers are getting ready to retire and may be looking for part-time options.
- Gen X is focusing on building their careers -- for this, promote growth opportunities.
- Millennials tend to be socially conscious -- for this, promote work culture, company ethics, and corporate social responsibility.
- Currently, Gen Z is often just starting their careers -- for this, promote learning opportunities and your work culture.
Optimize for Mobile and Usability
- People from all generations are on mobile, so consider mobile ads and text campaigns to reach job seekers.
- However, older generations may still turn to the desktop. Therefore, ensure your site is easy to use and offers a seamless experience across devices (cross-device functionality).
Be aware of how generations are similar as well as different!
There is no “one size fits all.” You need to find a balance between recruiting for the role’s needs, the fit for the company, and the fit for the candidate.
RECRUITING BABY BOOMERS
What are Baby Boomers looking for in a company?
- Flexible hours: Many boomers are not retiring at 65 anymore. They may want part-time options, flexible hours, or mentoring positions as they get older.
- Stability: They want to feel secure in their role as they approach retirement.
- Salary and benefits: As this group ages, healthcare options are increasingly valuable. However, this group also values strong pay rates in addition to robust retirement plans.
- Digital is universal: Boomers are on mobile and desktop and have learned to utilize various digital resources. However, Boomers are slower to adopt specific platforms, such as LinkedIn (24%), Instagram (24%), and Twitter (17%). However, YouTube (70%) and Facebook (now Meta) (68%) are heavily used by Boomers.
- Traditional is still a strong influence: Consider their history with offline media such as print or radio. These are still trusted reliable sources.
- Get to the point: While they are generally interested in an employer’s company culture, Boomers can pay more attention to the day-to-day aspects of a role.
RECRUITING GENERATION X
What is Gen X looking for in a company?
- Growth opportunities and consistency: At this stage in their career, they are looking for growth and the ability to be a contributor.
- Work-life balance and flexibility: They want a balance between family, work, and time off.
- Stability and company values: What is the “why” of what your company does?
- Training and development: They are still seeking ways to learn and grow and still have the time to change their careers. Note that where some Gen Xers may be reluctant to learn new skills, employers will need to provide how reskilling and upskilling will benefit this age group.
- Mentoring programs: They are ready to be mentors and share their knowledge.
- Strong benefits packages: Healthcare benefits take the top priority. Further, most Gen Xers prefer traditional benefits packages, including retirement, major medical, dental, vision, and life insurance (in addition to flexible working schedules and remote work).
- Formal Career Path Development: This is important as Gen X has been in the workforce for some time now, and they know what they want from their careers.
- Digitally savvy: This age group knows how to utilize online sources and turns to them frequently.
- Connected via mobile: Text and emails are robust communication methods for this age group.
- Promote a combination of company culture and the “day-to-day” of the role.
What are Millennials looking for in a company?
- Sell current opportunities: With the oldest Millennials turning 40 in 2021, most are well into their careers. However, this cohort sees future opportunities differently than Gen X and Baby Boomers. According to Monster, this generation takes “a shorter-term approach by focusing on what they can do at the [company] in a year or two.”
- Skill-building: When recruiting a Millennial, focus on the “skills and experience they’ll gain at your company, and the ways your company can help them build up their resume and their network.”
- Work-life balance and flexibility: Millennials want work-life balance as more and more seek out unique working approaches (remote working, custom hours, pet-friendly offices, gig work, especially post-COVID).
- Ability to engage digitally: As digital natives, this age group is looking for technology-forward companies.
- Company Culture: Promote the company, not just the role.
- Benefits: Beyond just a 401K and health package: Benefits such as PTO, flexible work schedules (work from home, student loan assistance, or financial education perks may appeal more to this group.
- They don’t want to be a “cog in the machine”: Provide examples of how they can affect the company and how the company affects the community.
RECRUITING GEN Z
What is Generation Z looking for in a Company?
- Learning opportunities: This is a young age group, and they may not know what they want but are excited to learn and grow.
- Mentorships: Similar to the other generations, Gen Z will value mentorship, and at this stage in their careers, they will look toward mentors for guidance.
- Flexibility: Gen Zers are more likely to work remotely or test out a non-traditional career path, such as a job in the gig economy.
- Ability to engage digitally: Similar to millennials, as digital natives, this age group is looking for technology-forward companies.
- Contribution to the company: Although young, Gen Z wants to be heard and contribute. They may not be familiar with the system of “paying dues” as older generations might expect.
- Short tenures: Don’t expect Gen Z to hang around more than two to three years. This cohort’s professional goals are more short-term, with them jumping to the next opportunity sooner than other generations. According to a 2021 CareerBuilder study, Gen Z’s average length of time at a job is two years and three months. Millennials run a close second at two years and nine months. (If you’re curious, Gen X stays at a job for five years and two months, on average. Boomers -- you guessed it -- have the longest tenure, coming in at eight years and three months).
- Similar to Millennials, promote benefits (beyond just a 401K and health package). Consider also offering tuition reimbursement or student loan repayment programs.
- Gen Z is more likely to be entrepreneurial: Provide examples of how they can make a difference and contribute beyond the day-to-day.
Why Being Inclusive Is Beneficial for Companies
You’re undoubtedly aware of diversity and inclusion measures (and the resulting benefits) across your employee population. However, are you age-diverse in your recruiting and retention?
According to a recent Indeed study, only 8 percent of companies include age when developing and executing their DEI strategies. Citing an AARP study, Indeed stated that “companies with mixed-age teams see higher productivity in both their older and younger workers and that age-diversity in a team increases the performance of the group when complex decision-making tasks need to be performed.”
If you’re not age-diverse, your company is limiting itself.
How do you ensure that you encourage an age-diverse culture? First, consider tailoring your recruitment content for multiple generations.
What is inclusive content? Salesforce defines inclusive content and marketing as “creating content that truly reflects the diverse communities that our companies serve. It means that we are elevating diverse voices and role models, decreasing cultural bias, and leading positive social change through thoughtful and respectful content.”
Creating inclusive content doesn’t require you to reinvent the wheel. However, “it does require you to think differently, recognize what you don’t know, and use words more purposefully.”
When developing inclusive content, there are a few steps to keep in mind. The first is to understand your audience. According to Microsoft’s Marketing with Purpose Playbook, being inclusive in your messaging should take into account the following three categories:
- “Demographic Diversity: examples include gender, race, or sexual orientation.
- Experiential Diversity: examples include affinities, hobbies, and abilities.
- Cognitive Diversity: examples include how we approach problems and think about things.”
Understanding your audience allows you to garner insights from the different generational groups, “uncovering diverse human truths, culture cues, preferred language, needs, and values [pointing you] in the right direction to authentically execute Inclusive Marketing.”
Doing so not only encourages diversity and inclusion. It also promotes belonging. Coined by some as the top driver in employee engagement today, belonging brings considerable value to the workplace as it encompasses our innate desire to be social -- to belong. Yet, with organizations spending almost $8 billion annually on DEIB training, they’re “missing the mark” because they don’t address belonging.
It’s time for your diversity and inclusion strategies to evolve. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) strategies should encompass belonging -- especially post-pandemic. People no longer want to feel like a number or, even worse, lonely at work. They want to belong.
Through your DEIB strategies, you can ensure that under-represented groups are represented while ensuring fairness across all employee groups -- from Boomers to Gen Z.
Are you looking to succeed with your DEIB strategies but don't know where to start? We'd love to help. Contact Recruitics today to learn more!
Posted by Tiffany Mack
Tiffany Mack is the Senior Director of Marketing at Recruitics. With 15 years of experience in marketing, media, and sales, Tiffany has been responsible for multi-million-dollar growth in customer acquisition and retention campaigns across several industry verticals. She loves how marketing allows her to cross the intersection between people, pain points, and solutions. Tiffany’s favorite recruitment marketing solution is employer branding because it helps organizations look their best while helping employees feel their best.