Skip to main content
Use my current location
Use my current location

Why a multigenerational staff can benefit your small business

There’s never been more age diversity in the US labor force than right now. In a recent Snagajob survey, the age range of active seekers broke down as follows.

Each of these age ranges fits into one of four generations: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z. But it’s not just age that distinguishes them. Social and economic events, politics and technological advances can all shape a generation’s worldview. Each of these four generations has its defining characteristics. Each also has its exaggerated stereotypes. Boomers can’t learn new skills. Millennials are entitled babies. It’s important to see people as individuals. If you meet one member of a generation, don’t assume you’ve met them all.

As an employer, having an understanding of what makes these different generations tick—their values, their motivation and their preferences—will help you sell your employment opportunities. 

Here are some valuable insights from a recent Snagajob survey:

  • Nearly 50% of currently employed 41-56 year olds are actively looking for different employment, while only 24% of currently employed 16-24 year olds are looking for something new

  • 62% of both the 16-24 year old and 41-56 year old age groups indicated that they are parents and 16% of all respondents said they’re a caretaker for a sick or elderly family member

  • When asked how they prefer to hear from an employer, the majority of 16-24, 57-66 and 67+ year olds said “email”, while the majority of 25-40 and 41-56 year olds said “phone”

Insights like these can help you tailor your recruiting, communication and benefits accordingly. According to LinkedIn Global Talent Trends 2020, 89% of talent professionals say a multigenerational workforce makes a company more successful. 

Keep reading to learn a bit more about each generation and how to recruit them. 

Baby Boomers

During 1945, World War II ended. Soldiers came home. The birth rate exploded. And America got the Baby Boomer generation. Technically, that’s people born between 1946 and 1964. Many Boomers have reached retirement age and are saying farewell to the workplace. But others are still in the labor market working full-time out of necessity. People are living longer and healthier these days, and some Boomers continue to work simply for the personal satisfaction it brings—possibly in a part-time capacity, possibly in a job different from what they did for a career.

Boomers have a strong work ethic, maybe too strong. Some consider them a generation of workaholics. They’re achievement oriented, believe in loyalty to an employer and in paying your dues. Many see their work as an integral part of their identity. 

Why might it be worth hiring a Boomer? According to views presented at a 2017 AARP forum on the multigenerational workplace, “these older workers are often more engaged and motivated than younger workers, bring more baseline skills—like professionalism, problem solving, and self-direction—to their jobs, and can share knowledge with other employees.” They’re also interested in staying current and learning new skills.  

Despite these strengths, companies often pass on older candidates, who are otherwise qualified. Overlooking them could be a missed opportunity, but also a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). You should ensure that your hiring practices are equitable and in compliance with this law.

Today’s working Boomers are looking for flexible schedules. They’re interested in knowing the day-to-day aspects of a role. They may only want to work part-time so they can take care of family or pursue other interests. And since they’re older, they want a job that can provide healthcare benefits. They haven’t been completely left behind in the stone age of technology and will use computers and mobile phones for job searches. But they can also be recruited through more traditional channels like print and radio.

Generation X

The Pew Research Center defines Generation X as people born between 1965 and 1980—a time when more women were entering the workforce. Originally referred to as the Baby-Bust Generation, this population is 25% smaller than the Boomer population. Generation X grew up in the Reagan era, watched a lot of MTV (back when they actually played music videos) and took care of themselves while their parents were both at work. Popular culture remembers Gen Xers as disaffected, cynical slackers, but plenty of them might disagree with that characterization. Unlike their Boomer parents, Gen X employees work to live, rather than live to work. Really, the company work-life balance movement began with them. 

The self-reliance that many of Generation X developed in their younger years makes them valuable in the workplace today. They’re independent. Some have an entrepreneurial streak. They’re direct communicators and open to change. They work hard and know how to get the job done. Most of them are far along in their careers, and many are looking for opportunities to lead (many are). But for most Gen Xers, advancement will take a backseat to work-life balance.

Gen Xers aren’t spring chickens anymore. At this stage in their lives, salary and fringe benefits, such as health and life insurance and (401)k plans are important. In addition to these offerings, consider attracting these potential employees with flexible work arrangements, salaried vacation or paid time off and paid sick leave. While Generation X didn’t grow up with technology like later generations, they have adapted and will use many of the available tools to job hunt. Consider recruiting them through online job boards or Facebook.

 

Xennials

If you haven’t heard of the Xennials, you’re not alone. In fact, the term has only been around for six years or so. The Xennials is a microgeneration that’s squished between Generation X and the Millennial Generation. These are people born between 1977 and 1983, slightly overlapping with the tail end of Gen X and the front end of the Millennials. As a result, they share some traits and experiences with both of the generations, but also have their own distinctions.

As Anna Garvey writes, Xennials have “a strange relationship with technology and the internet, coming of age as a seismic shift” in how human communication was happening. They were the first kids to have computers and dial-up internet in their homes. It’s given them “a unique perspective that’s half analog old school and half digital new school.” So a typical Xennial may be optimistic like a Millennial but also possess the skepticism of a Gen Xer. They can spend an hour texting friends but be just as comfortable conversing face-to-face with a real person.

On the job, this adaptability makes them strong team players and great intergenerational mediators. They can be the relations bridge between the two generations who sometimes just may not get each other.

Since they’re a generational hybrid, what they want from an employer may align with what a Gen Xer might want, what a Millennial might want or be a combination of both. If it’s unclear, don’t be afraid to ask them directly. And feel free to connect with them using technology or in person. 

 

Millennials

They’re coddled, self-obsessed, open-minded, optimistic, passionate and always on their phones. No other generation has been critiqued like the Millennial Generation. Born between 1981 and 1996, the Millennials have recently surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living adult generation and are now the largest block of workers in the labor force today. The oldest Millennials are now approaching age 40.

They’ve lived through some tumultuous times: 9/11, wars in the Middle East, consistent school shootings and the Great Recession. They’re also the first generation to live in constant-communication mode. They grew up tech savvy, embraced mobile communications and were early adopters (and creators) of social media.

Millennial workers expect a lot from a workplace. Their priority isn’t a paycheck. They want their work and the company that hires them to have a greater purpose and want an emotional connection to what they do. They’re team players looking for opportunities to collaborate and socialize with coworkers. Working for an authentic company that truly supports and lives diversity and inclusion is very important to Millennials. Ideally, they’d like an employer who is willing to take a stand on issues—like racism, affordable housing and climate change. Unlike generations before them, Millennials need constant feedback and coaching. They want to be recognized for their work, have opportunities to learn and grow and have flexibility and quality work-life balance.

It’s a tall order for sure, but this generation has a lot to offer. They’re skilled multitaskers. They’re curious. And they’re tech wizards. They’re the labor force of the future and see their relationship to work differently than their parents and grandparents. To attract them, it’s critical that you promote your employer brand with your purpose and values. It’s not enough to simply post a job opening with a list of duties. Communicate what makes you unique. Do you have volunteer days that allow employees to give back to the community? Are there diversity and inclusion programs you’re proud of? Do you pay for continuing education? Go deep and make it so a millennial can see themselves in the role.

Generation Z

Generation Z is beginning to enter the workforce. These youngsters were born between 1997 and today—no official end year has been determined. While they may check many of the same boxes Millennials do, Gen Z is not Millennial 2.0. They’re digital natives. From day one, they’ve lived with all the tech toys. They’re our most racially and ethnically diverse generation yet. They have higher levels of education than Millennials. They’re less optimistic and worry more. They grew up during a recession and may be faced with a lot of student debt. Or they may not have been able to afford education after high school. They may not all share the Millennial team spirit and may be more competitive, too.

While job-seeking Gen Zers are interested in getting paid well and having excellent work-life balance, the main thing they want to know from an employer is how they’ll develop and grow. They want to know what they’ll get now and what a future with the business will look like. Gen Zers don’t have much (if any) experience in the working world, so you should expect to provide them with a good amount of coaching.

When it’s time to recruit, you can find them on social media. A 2018 Pew Research Center survey revealed that 95% of 13- to 17-year-olds had access to a smartphone and 97% used at least one of seven major online platforms. YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat were favorite online destinations, while Facebook fell into the less popular category.

Researchers have found that Gen Z trusts their personal networks more than previous generations and will source opinions from them. As an employer looking to hire, it may be worth building relationships with schools, clubs and civic associations and becoming a trusted member of the community.

Final thoughts

As you plan your recruiting strategy to attract workers from some or all of these generations, keep in mind that a worker’s traits and needs could be tied to their life stage, rather than their date of birth. Also remember that the secret to building a multigenerational team is to find ways for members of each generation to contribute their strengths.

Tom Quinn |
Tom (he/him) is a growth marketing manager at Snagajob helping small businesses find hourly workers.