Boomers, Gen Xers, millennials – even a few traditionalists and Gen Z – all occupy today’s working population. A multigenerational technology workforce brings diverse viewpoints, differing skill sets, and a mix of experience and eagerness.
Finding and managing this diversity of talent won’t be successful without a strategy. Instances of age-related hiring bias in technology further complicates the situation. According to USA Today, the technology industry’s tendency to “celebrate youth and newness” can veer into age discrimination. They report that 90 age-related complaints have been filed against tech companies in Silicon Valley since 2012.
On the other end of the spectrum is potential exploitation of younger workers. Dice. com reports that those who are new to the workforce tend to be willing to take a lower salary, work longer hours and often don’t have families or other obligations taking time away from work. This can lead to quick burn-out and replacement.
The truth is that every workplace can benefit from the perspective and experience brought by employees of all generations, from the “seasoned pro” to the “newbie.” In order to effectively cultivate the benefits of a multi-generational workforce, you must recruit fairly and foster an engaging environment of understanding.
T-T-Talking ‘Bout My Generation Three generations, baby boomers, Generation X and millennials, make up almost all of the workforce (dates vary according to the source).
(born from 1946 to 1964)
• Teamwork and cooperation
(born from 1965 to 1980)
• Balances work and personal life
(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 – just don’t fall into the trap of unfairly mischaracterizing members of each generation. Shared experience leads to some similar characteristics and behaviors, but employers should remember that candidates are unique individuals.
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. There are one-size-fit-sall tactics that you can employ to create a fair and engaging environment for everyone involved.
Before you implement the strategies introduced in this White Paper, take a moment to evaluate your culture. Every organization has a culture, whether they are aware of it or not. Work with your company’s leadership to define it and discuss what ideal coworkers can do to influence it. Literally write down your culture so you can reference it during the interview process and while developing and implementing programs. Be aware this does not mean finding duplicates of your current employees but rather focus on finding candidates that will complement one another and share the organization’s values.
Attracting Talent from All Generations
How you find candidates and how you engage them during the recruitment process will affect the age diversity of your talent network. Here are some tips to get prepared.
Finding (and being found by) age-diverse candidates requires a strong online presence, particularly in the tech industry. When creating an online job posting, your language will make all the difference. Be aware of age-discriminating phrases such as “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.
Don’t stop on the desktop level. According to Indeed, all three generations utilize mobile devices in their job search.
You don’t necessarily need a custom mobile application, but you must ensure that your website and respective job posts are mobile-friendly across various platforms. Make sure to test the mobile capabilities of your company’s job application process yourself from a 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 spans 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%
Some Things Never Go Out of Style…
Remember that online listings are not the only source for jobs. Consider utilizing “traditional” methods of recruiting, including job fairs, referrals, and in some cases print ads. Partnering with an organization like Ledgent Technology can ensure a wider influence and a fairer candidate audience to efficiently fill a position.
Interviews are your first opportunity to broaden your understanding of a candidate.
During the interviewing process, once again, be wary of language. It’s not illegal to ask how old someone is, but it can make them feel uncomfortable.
Avoid questions and phrases like these; some are rude, some are illegal:
1. How old are you?
2. You’re overqualified.
3. When do you plan on retiring?
4. In my experience, boomers/Xers/ millennials are…
5. You have too much energy/not enough energy.
6. Do you have children? Do you plan to?
7. Do you think you’re old enough to handle this responsibility?
8. We know young people tend to job hop …
9. When did you graduate?
10. What’s your childcare arrangement?
Thankfully, 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 an appealing work culture.
Don’t assume that only candidates of a certain age group are interested in certain benefits and programs. Lay out all of your company’s programs and allow time for plenty of questions.
During the interview, be sure to include culture-based questions and provide honest information about your company’s culture. In a survey of more than 200 HR professionals, 90% of respondents rated recruiting for culture fit as “very important” to “essential.” However, 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. Nevertheless, you can teach skills (to an extent), but you can’t teach culture fit. Be sure that your organization’s culture values all age groups. If a candidate is a stellar culture fit, don’t pass them over – no one is too young or old to learn something new.
Before, after, and during the interview process, take a moment to conduct a self-assessment: 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.
Retaining an Age- Diverse Workforce
Once you have recruited a talented, culturally sound and age-diverse workforce, dedicated practices will keep engagement high 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. It is typical and recommended to create dedicated programs that will facilitate lasting engagement based on employee needs. However, it’s unrealistic to have custom policies for certain coworkers. Fortunately, engaging programs and policies know no age limit. For example, if you allow Gen Xers to leave at 3 p.m. to pick up their children from school, you must make this perk available to all employees. This will be appreciated by millennials and boomers alike. Meanwhile, depriving employees without school-aged children can be detrimental to engagement.
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 three 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. It may take some time for the practices that you implement to contribute to overall employee engagement. While the programs you implement will serve as the base, 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.
The programs described below will cater to all employees while serving their unique needs.
Pay & Benefits
Employees cannot even think about engagement if their most basic needs are not met. Be sure you are providing comprehensive benefits and calculating salaries objectively by focusing on experience and skill rather than age. To ensure fairness, check out our award-winning 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 entry-level jobs may not have enough to stay motivated. Create an open dialogue and share responsibilities to moderate stress based on each employee’s unique stress point.
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 companysponsored mentoring (Deloitte).
Lead with Transparency
Transparent leadership and practices promote fairness, reduce jealousy, and boost connectedness. How you define transparent leadership will vary depending on your workplace. Focus on sharing information about programs and practices that directly affect your employees.
Structured Career Paths
Regardless of where an employee is in their career, 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). When an employee knows exactly what is expected of them, it helps everyone get ahead and it can reduce jealousy and misunderstandings surrounding promotions and growth.
Amongst engaged employees, 83% receive recognition for a job well done (Quantum Workplace). It’s not only millennials who want recognition. In fact, 50% of employees who don’t feel valued plan to look for another job in the next year (Huffington Post). 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. Consider programs like “lunch and learns”, conferences, and off site classes.
Conduct anonymous surveys frequently so employees can voice their opinions and concerns. When reviewing survey results, focus on what you can learn about your employees, rather than evaluating how you are doing as an employer. Take immediate action based on those results; do not allow issues to fester. According to TNS Employee Insights, 70% of engaged employees agree that their organization takes action based on survey results.
It’s not mandatory for employees to participate in engagement events, but it’s essential for you to sponsor activities. Allow for coworkers to intermingle in relaxed environments away from work. This can include happy hours, volunteer efforts, and team competitions. People tend to socially prefer interacting with others who are closer to their own age, so go out of your way to foster collaboration.
MAINTAINING EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT
Once your engagement programs are implemented, it’s up to your 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 a 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 we will continue to do so. However, with dedicated efforts and programs, we can make teams even more efficient and effective by focusing on similarities rather than our differences.