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How to attract and retain a multi-generational workforce

Attracting
and retaining
multi-generational workforces

How to attract and retain multi-generational workforces
  • Introduction

Learn about the basic similarities and differences of the different cohorts.

  • Deep dive into generational motivators

Technology, social and cultural changes affect how generations generally behave

  • Blueprint for cohort focused talent attraction campaigns

Use our guide to help create targeted talent attraction campaigns.

  • Management styles

Learn about the different styles of management and which suits each specific cohorts.

With Generation Z moving jobs at an increased rate of 80%, Millennial’s job moving up by 50%, Gen X by 31% and Boomers up by 5% since 2020, the great resignation and pandemic is creating a first for many businesses: managing campaigns to attract and retain a multi-generational workforce for the first time. This creates a challenge for some and most definitely requires a different approach to hiring and retaining team members. This report covers the expectations and needs of these generations and latest best practice on how data, analytics and tech teams can approach this new era of workforce attraction and management. Whilst it is useful to understand the subtle preferences of each generation, we would stress that getting to know team members personally and trying to break down barriers to generational preconceptions is a more productive way to manage a team.

Across the globe people are looking at their lives holistically, assessing whether their current employment meets their values, lifestyle requirements and future prospects. In short, people are not accepting the old order and questioning where and why they want to work at a particular business. This means businesses need to be looking at their offering and experience of working in detail to ensure it is fit for purpose for the people they want to attract and retain. It is one of the biggest changes to ever play out in the world of work. With the cohort of Gen Z’ers joining the workforce, (and those being the most likely to turnover roles), businesses are likely to experience high turnover of staff well into 2023, adjustments made early will help to slow this turnover down.

Multi gen pic 1

Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), born in the aftermath of the WWII when there was a “boom” in birth-rates. They grew up in a time of optimism, economic growth, and space exploration.

Next are Gen X (born 1965-1980). Known as the latch-key generation, members of this group often grew up in households with divorced or two working parents. With the advent of personal computers and internet, they became tech-savvy and highly independent.

Millennials (born 1981-1996) came next. Born during a time of economic growth to optimistic parents, they were encouraged to take risks, collaborate, and become entrepreneurs in a tech-driven world.

Finally, Gen Z (born 1997-2013) are the newest members of the workforce. Born in the shadow of 9/11, they experienced economic insecurity during the Great Recession and the threat of violence from their peers. They are also known as “digital natives.”

Multi gen pic 2

5 Point Plan for Communication Style

Communication style preferences differ between the generations (as well as person to person, but for the purposes of this report we will focus on the “generalised” difference). Getting to grips with these differences and actioning different forms of communication across the business takes commitment and mindset aligned to change, however it will pay off in the end with better outcomes.

Generally, these are the recognised differences in communication preferences between the generations:

Baby Boomers                  Verbal, personal interactions
Gen X                                 Email & Text
Gen Y (Millennials)         Text & Social
Gen Z                                  Instant Message, Face to Face interactions

  1. Set clear boundaries for where message “types” are to be posted. Examples would be, important messages that require action could be sent on email, company or team news can be put on Microsoft Teams or Slack, however this depends on company structure and culture so work out what’s best for you
  2. Create space for regular face to face catch ups however be mindful of time pressures, for example Generation X in particular do not like wasting time in unnecessary meetings or those that run over or start late.
  3. Set up generational mentor programmes to break down barriers. These should go both ways, not always Boomer down
  4. Keep up with recognition. The pandemic has had a negative effect on the way we are recognising colleagues for their achievements and input (we are decreasing in frequency). All generations appreciate recognition
  5. Understand the different ways team members prefer to communicate and adjust your style to that person

 

Communication has been cited as the most difficult aspect of managing talent from different generations and Adobe’s most recent State of Work study also layer on the added complication of hybrid working and how generational groups are adapting and navigating remote working models at different rates.

Impact of Remote and Hybrid Working

Looking at the challenges that hybrid working brings is a good starting point to consider the generational differences.

Digital Training

As we all know, remote and hybrid working meant that planned digital transformation processes had to be implemented much faster than anticipated. Training on different technologies is more important than ever and each generation brings its own set of knowledge, needs, expectations and habits.

Companies need to consider how to address ageism, gender pay and promotional gaps, otherwise the shift towards virtual working will mean businesses could be missing out on age diverse talent.  Baby Boomers for example are stereotyped for being tech resistant however they have been found to value practical tech adoption and are more likely to stick with and master the technologies they use. Some employees are able to be onboarded onto tech platforms like Slack without any assistance at all, however businesses will need to provide tools for those employees who need a deeper dive into training on the platform. One size fits all training is not going to cut it in a multi-generational workforce. With technologies constantly evolving (think virtual reality meetings – Metaverse) ongoing learning will be required even for those digital natives coming into the business.

Internal communication requires training attention. We have so many different ways of communicating (email, Slack, Discord, Teams, Skype anyone?) and the key to integrated workforces is making sure that all employees regardless of location, age, background and aptitude have access to the same platforms and are trained to the same standard. This will help ensure that you keep attracting the right talent across all demographics and are offering equitable chances across the board regardless of style and preference for communication.

 

Visibility and Promotion

One of the areas being highlighted more recently off the back of the Pandemic is the situation where some demographics are being passed over for promotion or internal opportunities. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) is a big topic that businesses are currently attempting to address and remote working (and disparities between demographics and generations) is having an impact on. The challenge for managers is that many have not been trained on how to supervise remote workers, according to Ann Francke, the Chief Executive of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

29% of managers think promotions will decrease for remote workers

30% of managers say no steps taken by their company to mitigate against this

38% of managers did not know which steps had been taken to mitigate against this

Nearly a third (29%) of managers said they felt promotion opportunities would decrease for remote workers, according to a recent CMI poll of 1,200 UK bosses. Within the survey, 30% of managers admitted their organisation had not taken steps to ensure employees were not passed over, while 38% did not know.

One of the issues is visibility. Studies have shown (even before the pandemic hit) that remote workers are more regularly passed over for promotion vs those that remain in the office. And it is not related to productivity or efficiency, it is purely an “out of sight, out of mind” phenomenon, because studies also show that people are more productive working from home. Whilst the majority of (office) workers have been working from home recently, the playing field has been levelled, with hybrid models however likely to be the norm going forward, care will need to be taken around this subject. Often older workers, disabled people, women with children are more likely to opt for the fully remote or hybrid option and these are areas that can be hard hit by ED&I. Meanwhile, young ambitious males, who may have a preference for working in the office, will likely climb the promotion ladder faster, creating even more of a diversity issue amongst leadership further down the line. During the pandemic, older workers and older (more expensive) workers were kept on furlough for longer than younger workers. Some experts believe that putting people on similar schedules, with both remote and office working as part of the week will put people on a more level playing field, rather than letting people choose one way of working over the other. People often work harder at home and burnout can happen more easily, all with the added issue of being looked over for promotions. One to watch in your teams!

ED&I experts believe that workshops and internal comms programmes around ageism will really help different generations overcome pre-conceived ideas about each other. Unconscious bias training helps people understand different points of view and backgrounds and strengthens collaboration between the generations. Workshops around communication “norms” have helped Google for example increase empathy within a diverse workforce.

ATTRACTING TALENT- CAMPAIGN GUIDES

 

What do the different generations generally look for in an employer? Most of the employer attributes are similar between the generations according to a recent Gallup poll of top 3 EVP elements. However one of the starker differences shows up around attitudes towards diversity amongst the latest generation to join the workforce.

Young Millennials and Gen Z (1989-2001)

  1. The organisation cares about employees’ wellbeing
  2. The organisation’s leadership is ethical
  3. The organisation is diverse and inclusive of all people

Older Millennials (1980-1988)

  1. The organisation cares about employees’ wellbeing
  2. The organisation’s leadership is ethical
  3. The organisation’s leadership is open and transparent

Gen X (1965-1979)

  1. The organisation’s leadership is ethical
  2. The organisation cares about employees’ wellbeing
  3. The organisation is financially stable

Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

  1. The organisation’s leadership is ethical
  2. The organisation cares about employees’ wellbeing
  3. The organisation is financially stable

Layering these differences on top of the general characteristics of each generation as described in the introduction can help inform candidate attraction campaigns:

Gen Z campaign compressed

Images: Diverse, inclusive, authentic
Language:
Inclusive, purpose driven, values led.
What to highlight: Commitment to issues like ED&I and sustainability: Talk about how this plays out tangibly within the business, CSR initiatives, progression, flexibility around working hours, location, team values, alternative social events (not just drink focused), how benefits will make their lives easier, mental health initiatives, psychologically a healthy place to work, the technology used within the business, livable pay.

Millennial campaign compressed

Images: Diverse, community feel
Language: Purpose driven, impact on the market you are serving
What to Highlight: How teams work, how the business listens to employees, how your business empowers the people it serves, how your business keeps customers front and centre, how colleagues interact and have fun whilst doing the work they do, how people collaborate.

Gen X campaign compressed

Images: Collaboration
Language: Values and Mission led, progression and flexibility
What to Highlight: Training and mentorship schemes, flexibility around location and hours, family friendly benefits, progression opportunities, recognition and reward programmes.

Baby Boomer campaign compressed

Images: Diverse, inclusive
Language: Inclusive,
What to Highlight: Contract work, remote work, upskilling opportunities, healthcare / health related benefits, mentorship programmes

Management Styles

Each generation, broadly speaking, will require different approaches to management. Again, person to person will differ, but there are certain traits that are recognised as being attached to generations.

Baby Boomers are staying in the workforce for longer and their skills and experience are often great sources for younger generations to pull on. Setting up environments where older team members are able to teach their knowledge is a great way to pass this knowledge on. Working towards a culture where age is respected rather than dismissed is vital for this to work. Baby Boomers are generally loyal to their employers and are more committed to achieving their goals in situ rather than moving on, providing opportunities for growth, through upskilling or project work will help to keep people engaged.

Generation X, often called the latchkey generation are independent problem solvers. Micromanagement (a no no for any generation) however it is more likely to annoy a Generation X’er than most. They are highly independent and value being left alone to find a solution to their problems. If there are any issues, they will share them with you because they are direct communicators. Many of Gen X are in management positions due to their length of time in a role and they

Millennials prefer to work hours that suit the task they are working on. This means they are less keen on sitting at their desk for 8 hours. Remote working works perfectly for this generation as it affords them flexibility within their roles. Millennials tend to prefer a collaborative style of leadership and want to bring the whole team along with them. They are also very sociable and like to spend time with the team. To make sure remote working doesn’t get in the way of this style of working, ensure that the team have access to collaborative technology where they can see what other team members are working on and allows for project team builds. The also are known as the generation who are more often on the move jobwise so show them career paths and opportunities within the business and offer upskilling opportunities whenever possible. Also provide positive feedback where possible (they grew up with gold star systems and rewards so prefer this style of communication)

Gen Z data is still coming in, however generally speaking management styles that suit this group tend to focus on continual communication. They have been brought up by parents, teachers and social media to follow their dreams and live their passions and this translates through to the workplace. You may find a few disillusioned team members who move on as they find their passions don’t align with the role. Experts also warn that this generation can feel particularly devastated when they find a dream “fit” and then something goes wrong with the culture. They may observe how power can be misused or how company actions don’t match public statements. They may be shocked by the amount of heavy lifting or mundane work that is involved in a role, or they may be overwhelmed by office politics or the number of unwritten rules. You can help by laying out expectations clearly and how the business works as well as finding out which part of the job they enjoy or not and helping them understand how it impacts on the rest of the business so they can see the value in it. When providing feedback, ensure it is clear and direct.

 

For information on how KDR can help you to attract the right candidates to your data, technology or analytics teams contact us at enquiries@kdrrecruitment.com or call +44(0) 1565 651 422.

 

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