5 minute read

How to Manage Four Generations of Recruiters

With Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z in the workforce, there’s a strong possibility that you guys running a recruitment agency are trying your best to figure out how to manage each age group effectively. However, with such a vast time and age difference between the oldest Baby Boomers, and the youngest members of Generation Z, it’s a pretty big ask. To help you manage four generations of recruiters, we’ve put together a blog rounding up each generation, what they are used to, what they are likely to want from you, and what you can do to help them achieve their version of success…

Baby Boomers (Between 51 and 69)

How to Manage Four Generations of RecruitersThese recruiters grew up in an era of power suits, working in environments where the boss was probably seen by appointment only via their PA. There was a real hierarchy in the workplace and the incentive to climb the ranks was definitely this generations’ motivation to progress.

Now, a Baby Boomer is likely to be your coach, non-exec, or the wise recruiter that has the largest black book of contacts and candidates resting in their head. You may find them the most cynical when you’re chatting 360 degree reviews, putting a pool table in the office, or introducing flexible working, but their maturity and experience are often a god send in the midst of the unstructured madness that we sometimes have to manage in recruitment.

To get the best out of this generation, give them their place, respect their experience, and allow them to advise you. They may come from a different generation of recruiters but there’s a lot of truth in the saying, ‘The old ways are often the best ways’.

Generation X (Between 35 and 50)

Ok, I’m biased but why can’t everyone come from Gen X? We’re the best generation! But we now have one of the toughest jobs. The average business is run or managed by our generation so it falls on us to bring the four generations together and successfully lead everyone!

We’ve grown up with the attitude that you work hard and play hard. Our life has revolved around recruitment by day and the pub at night. Always be networking was our mantra and god help any of our partners that expected us home at night! We didn’t leave the office until it was legally too late to call candidates at home in the evening. Similarly, there was none of this clocking in and counting your hours, it was just what was expected of us…right? 

So, I think our greatest challenge is accepting that not everyone works to the pace and the standards we’ve been brought up with. We need to adapt to and understand the next two generations coming through to get the best out of them. Whereas the carrot worked a trick on us the same techniques often fall on deaf ears with other generations.

We’ve enjoyed a professional career where we could buy houses, cars, and holidays. This was what our managers used as our incentives and now we’re all just trying to hold on to them! In terms of working environments, we can still remember the buzz of the fax machine through to the launch of the first job board. We’re generally comfortable with change and are happyish to embrace it.

Read: How to Set Up a Recruitment Agency Without an Office

Millennials (Between 18 and 34)

Tips on managing four generations of recruitersMillennials are likely to be somewhere between their late twenties and early thirties. This generation is used to technology, although they still remember a time pre-internet, and they grew up in a supportive environment full of praise from parents and teachers. No one was a loser - they all won and they therefore expect a lot from their working environment.  

When it comes to managing this generation, coaching should be your watchword. This generation looks for constant feedback, and they’re often unafraid of change. Their focus, however, isn’t on wealth and success in the way that Generation Xers expect, instead it’s success and challenge at work. So, to get the best out of this generation, you want to create a working environment where Millennials feel they’re adding real, tangible value to the business.

To manage this generation, provide them with shorter term goals or projects, with regular feedback, within a managed timeframe. This way, they can see their progress and they can see what value they’re adding to your agency. It’s key that these recruiters see their purpose and relate to it, otherwise they’ll become disengaged and start looking elsewhere for work.

In terms of creating the right working environment for Millennials, focus on promoting a healthy work life balance, provide flexible working arrangements, and foster the feeling that they’re in control of their own destiny. Remember: it’s harder for this generation of recruiters to get mortgages, cars, and regular holidays, so they’ve had to become less attached to the traditional material things in life. Which, let’s face it, isn’t a bad thing. But it does mean the incentives offered to previous generations don’t carry the same weight for millennial recruiters.   

Generation Z (Between 18 and 21)

The generation after Millennials is Generation Z. This generation is only just entering the workplace. They were born after 1995 and they’re still negotiating with themselves what they want their careers to look like. But the great thing about this generation is their enthusiasm and hunger for work. They grew up during the last recession so they don’t take a job for granted and they value job security. They’re likely to have seen parents either get laid off or have to fight hard for their job during the recession so they understand that there are winners and losers in the world and they want to be winners!

However, although on the one hand this is a breath of fresh air, don’t let this enthusiasm for work mask the fact they’re still going to need to hone and develop basic social skills. They’ve grown up with texts, emojis, and computer games, so chatting to one another either via phone or in-person seems odd to them.  

So, reinvent your training materials, promote a mentoring environment, develop graduate programmes, and create ways in which this generation can learn and get instant feedback on their performance. This will enable Millennials to succeed. If you do get this training and development right, and you can coach these guys to learn face-to-face social skills from their elders, I predict this generation will make fantastic recruiters of the future! So, it’ll be worth gearing up to attract them into your business early.

There are pros and cons with each generation. I think the key for managers and agency owners is understanding the different needs and motivators of each generation. Get to the bottom of what they’re looking for and you’ll find it much easier to support their career aspirations and get the maximum return for your agency.

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About the Author: Wendy McDougall is the CEO of Firefish Software. With just under 20 years experience in the recruitment industry, Wendy is on a mission to inspire the next generation of recruiters and help challenge the traditional recruitment agency model of doing things. In her spare time, you’ll find her enjoying some down time with the family, playing squash and feeding her inner geek with all the latest technology!

Follow them on Twitter or connect with them on LinkedIn.

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