From Millennials to Boomers: How to Appeal Across Generations for Hiring

Intellectual and cultural capital, digital savvy and online communications expertise are just a few of the Boomer (born between 1945 and 1960), Gen X (born between 1960 and 1990) and Millennial (born between 1980 and 2000) attributes mentioned in the article, “Forget Millennials and Boomers. Gen X Will Save the Workplace.”

It is true that, based on their birth timeline position, each generation arrived in the workforce with a different set of skillsets and perspective.

Communicating Effectively Across Generations

Knowing how to appeal to each generation’s communication skills and preferences during talent recruitment can contribute to a more fluid process and meaningful outcome.

For example, when many of the boomer workforce began their careers, the internet was nonexistent, so by necessity, their early-career communications were handled by phone or snail mail. In today’s digital age, some workforce boomers have held onto long-ingrained preferences for email, snail mail and phone.

Others have adapted to online trends nimbly and gratefully as digitization and social media channels have sped and expanded communications to a real-time audience beyond their wildest expectations. Respecting the varied platforms that appeal to this generation can assist in fluid communications.

Likewise, Generation Xers, many which were in the throes of career entry at the same time digital technology become prominent, can easily remember a time when there was no such thing as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter or LinkedIn. When social media emerged, some Gen Xers resisted and have only slowly gained a foothold into this uncharted territory, while others nimbly adapted and were eager to jump onto the bandwagon to promote their personal brands, careers and entrepreneurial ventures.

Snapchat may be a cool venue to appeal to the millennial candidate, but less likely for the Gen Xer; LinkedIn and email often are the preferred channel. That said, dismissing alternative recruitment channels like Facebook or Instagram, for example, would be a mistake, as many Gen Xers have found alternative communication homes in these enticing venues.

Millennials are widely known for their intuitive abilities in social media and all things online, having been raised in a digital, online environment where texting and snapchatting were like tying their shoelaces. They were the first to be called out on their robust attentions to texting and Facebook selfies, generally preferring digital communications over voice-to-voice interactions. They often prefer texting over email and telephone and real-time feedback versus an aloof management style. Forcing excessive phone or email interactions may be a hiring death knell to those millennials intrigued by more contemporary, forward-looking enterprises.

Appealing to Generational Differences in Experience Perspective

According to Dr. Mary Donahue, in “The Marcia Moment: The Death of the Manage-Me Workplace,” appealing to all generations in the workforce extends beyond communication styles into areas of generational experience and how to meld and optimize that multi-layered and diverse proficiency.

For example, boomers, many of whom have risen through the ranks and/or battled multiple career chapters have accrued intellectual capital and historical context only possible through their several decades of work experience. Likewise, Gen Xers offer similar, if fewer, years of experience and context.

Both generations accrued head-down working capital within a culture of task-driven leadership vision. Each desire colleagues and direct reports to value them for the experience assets they bring to the table. Working hard, to both of these generations, means staying focused on the vision regardless of hours worked and sacrifices to their personal lives.

Many millennials, on the other hand, are known to value serendipity over salary, social contributions and collaborative winning versus vying for top job spots and being first to the finish line. Determining that building their dream meant personal freedom and flexibility beyond the career doors has led them to different definitions of success than their predecessors.

In order to find and capitalize upon the linkages – and the differences – between the generations currently populating the workforce means recognizing what those similarities and disparities are, among and between generations.

Whether it be methods of managing and developing, measuring individual performance, mentoring or promoting, the onus is on the company, as a whole to create a culture that appeals to individual generational needs when hiring.

Weaving Your Recruitment Message with Respect; Ensuring Developmental Support

According to Donahue, to appeal to boomers, ensure your message is woven with respect for their legacy brand and how they can share their learnings with the younger generations. Moreover, boomers are motivated by the knowledge that your company leader needs them.

To appeal to Gen X, invigorate your recruitment language with indications that you will recognize their value and understand how to incorporate it into the fabric of their day-to-day productivity. Gen Xers are motivated by important work that only ‘they’ can get done. They also believe numbers are driven by the task.

To appeal to millennials, ensure you reinforce that you will communicate on an ongoing basis, keeping them abreast of expectations, goals and performance – that you will provide mentoring and support. Rather than the traditional annual review, millennials prefer real-time feedback and regularly communicated, positive validation.

To appeal across generations, make sure you provide a company culture that is alive – the organic nature of growth and expansion and innovation must be at the very root of the company’s foundation. Moreover, the increasing importance of soft skills, engagement and recognition in the workplace is weighted more heavily than ever before, and in some instances, eclipses salary and compensation benefits. Healthy stress, complemented by the right tools and environment, propel a more productive, customer-centric environment that attracts cross-generational candidates.