The Danger In Generalizing The Generations

Recently, we’ve been talking quite a bit about millennials and Gen Z, how they operate, and what they want in a job, so you can focus on attracting and retaining them.

While members of the same generation can have common characteristics, they’re still individuals. We can’t fit all millennials into the same broad box, and the same goes for all generations.

There are baby boomers who want the same things that most millennials do, such as job flexibility and good health benefits. Forbes reports that 94 percent of baby boomers want flexible hours and the ability to work remotely. On the other side of the coin, there are millennials who want stability and don’t want to change jobs every year.

Because people are diverse, their work preferences will be diverse, too. In the end, you can’t put everyone in the same category. Making generalizations about generations may benefit your organization, but not every millennial is going to act like a millennial, and not every baby boomer is going to fit into the baby boomer category. The generation lines blur, the preferences spill over into each other, and usually, every person is a mix.

This thinking should influence your human resources strategies, too. By knowing your employees’ needs and wants, you can implement strategies to accommodate them, no matter what generation they fall into.

How to Adjust Your HR Strategy

With all of that said, how do you make sure you’re doing everything you can to attract and retain all three generations? Which attraction and retention strategies do you implement?

There are three overall preferences that align with all of the generations.

1. Flexibility

Everyone wants the organization they work for to be flexible about when they work and where they work. According to Gallup, 43 percent of Americans worked remotely at some point in the last year, and by 2020 mobile workers will account for 72 percent of the total U.S. workforce. In addition, 77 percent of millennials believe flexible work hours and working remotely would make them more productive. Put those statistics into perspective with what I said above about 94 percent of baby boomers wanting flexibility, and you have a commonality between both generations: they enjoy the occasional workday at a coffee shop or at home!

So, make sure you have the right processes and technology in place to allow your employees to work remotely and have flexible schedules. Then promote it as something you offer during interviews and in your job ads.

2. Impact

Most employees want to feel like they are making valuable contributions to their organization. While millennials are known for wanting to make a lasting impact, organizations can benefit from all of their employees feeling engaged in their work. Seventy-one percent of millennials who know what sets their organization apart and what it stands for also plan to stay at their organization for at least a year. 

The same goes for Gen Z. Monster reports that 74 percent believe their jobs should have more meaning than just making money. 

The IBM Institute for Business Value revealed that baby boomers also want to make an impact in their career, which means all three generations share this common goal.

To leverage this triple generational value, make sure your organization has a clear vision to impact clients and stakeholders, and make it clear how employees can contribute to the overall goal.

3. Recognition

Everyone likes to be recognized and appreciated for their hard work. Forbes reports that organizations who implement recognition programs have longer employee tenure. Recognizing your employees is something easy that you can do on a regular basis, and building a recognition program can boost your retention rates.

Even though each generation is different, there are also differences among millennials. No one is the same, and even though we can make broad generalizations about generations from surveys, each person is unique and draws from their own experiences. To avoid generalizing the generations, get to know the needs of your employees across all generations. Implement strategies, processes, incentives, and programs to complement their preferences.

What is your organization doing to attract and retain talent?

Katie Roth

Katie Roth has been in a leadership role in the employment industry for the majority of her career. Currently, she is Manager, Talent Acquisition for Oasis, a Paychex® Company. Katie is a graduate of the University of Iowa and is certified by both the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), as a Senior Professional in Human Resources, and the National Association of Personnel Services, as a Certified Personnel Consultant (CPC).


September 15, 2017

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Katie Roth