Today’s workforce is unique in that there are now four generations of people working together — traditionalists born from the 1920s to the 1940s, baby boomers, Generation X and millennials.

That presents challenges to employers in bridging generational gaps and getting workers on the same page.

“There are now four generations of people in the workforce, and they all bring something very different to the table. They have unique characteristics in terms of values and what is important to them personally,” says Liz Howe, Director of Business Development at Benefitdecisions, Inc.

“There is a lot of buzz about the lack of communication among the generations. They come from different places and have different ways of doing things. It’s about getting them to play in the same sandbox, if you will.”

Smart Business spoke with Howe about the differences between generations and the affect it has on the workplace.

There have always been multiple generations in the workforce, how is it different now?

It’s that there are still people born in the ‘20s to ‘40s in the workforce in high, C-level roles, along with baby boomers, Generation X and young kids out of college.

Combine that with the progress made over the last 20 or 30 years in technology and the Internet. The world is a completely different place and that can pose challenges in getting things done. One segment of workers says, ‘This is how it’s been done,” while another says, ‘Why do we do it this way?’

How can you bring them all together?

Companies need to consider what’s important to each group. The traditional generation was raised in a really hard time and tends to revert to how things used to be done; Generation Xers don’t identify with that. If you have a Gen Xer managing a traditionalist, he or she needs to think about what is important to that person — a flexible work arrangement, succession planning and teaching them technology.

That same manager would handle a millennial differently. Priorities to a millennial are having a work/life balance and having a relationship with his or her supervisor that doesn’t involve micromanagement, but more of a team-oriented approach. So it might be more of a mentorship than just being a work manager.

With baby boomers, no news is good news. If a manager isn’t calling and asking questions, they’re in good standing.

What is the danger of managing everyone the same?

You lose the employee engagement factor, which is a hot topic these days. Millennials aren’t as loyal to companies as baby boomers, and if they’re not happy they will leave for a company that better fits their culture. That has become more socially acceptable and other generations are seeing that. Ten to 15 years ago it wasn’t acceptable to have four or five companies on your resume, now tenure is three years before people want a promotion or a different role.

You need to be thoughtful about managing employees and what types of benefits you’re providing by catering to what they find important. There’s been a real push toward wellness programs. Some businesses provide different types of insurance — pet insurance is huge. Other companies will match charitable contributions to an organization of the employee’s choice rather than just giving a cash bonus. People today are much less monetarily driven than they’ve ever been.

What are the benefits of having all of these generations together?

It brings some depth and breath of knowledge to an organization, along with a wide variety of skill sets. It’s an advantage to have people raised at a time when there was little or no technology all the way down to people who don’t know anything but technology and the Internet.

The challenge is to get them to communicate with each other so you can take full advantage of their knowledge.

Liz Howe is director of Business Development at Benefitdecisions, Inc. Reach her at (312) 376-0452 or

Insights Employee Benefits is brought to you by Benefitdecisions, Inc.

Published in Chicago
Tuesday, 31 July 2012 20:00

How to recruit and retain millennials

Who is Joe Walsh? The question came from the 20-something colleague of Aimee Houde, director of Recruiting Services at Sequent.

She was astonished that the colleague didn’t know “Life in the Fast Lane.” She was curious how most people would answer the question and realized that the answer depends on your age, or, more specifically, what generation you belong to.

“It brings to mind that the workplace has become a mix of many generations – with the newest bunch being millennials, those roughly between the ages of 18 and 34,” says Houde.

Why should you care about millennials? Because you can’t afford not to. Millennials will make up 36 percent of the workforce by 2014 and 46 percent by 2020. Employers who “get” where newer generations are coming from are winning the war on talent, while employers who regard hiring millennials as a necessary evil are missing the boat. The good news is that if you haven’t already adjusted your recruiting strategy, there is still time.

Smart Business spoke with Houde about how to hire and retain millennials.

Where should employers begin?

Get social. Many hiring managers resist using social media to locate and learn about potential hires. These managers got their first jobs through traditional methods, and they see no reason to adjust their approach. However, social media isn’t just for marketing your business. It’s essential to marketing your brand to potential candidates, establishing your company as a great place to work. Linkedin is an obvious choice for recruiting, with 95 percent of organizations using it in 2011. If you create Facebook, Twitter and Google+ company profiles, you open the door to potential employees by giving them an opportunity to easily get to know your company, its people and services. You can also connect with candidates through off-the-cuff conversations, boosting your responsive and engaging quotient. Putting a name and face behind corporate social media accounts works wonders, too.

How can employers find millennials?

Reach out. Don’t expect millennials to come to you. They won’t respond to boring posts on your website or your friendless Facebook page. Figure out where they live and go get them. Go to social groups and engage them. Post content that helps them find a job or that positions you as the trusted expert in your industry. Use your website to provide information that is important to millennials — balance, benefits, purpose, support. Videos are a great tool for highlighting employees who love your organization.

How can an employer get noticed by millennials?

Be visible. The web is the first place millennials go. So show up, early, often and consistently. You also need to represent your brand on social media, industry blogs and other outlets.  Millennials will check you out to see whether they know your brand or are interested in learning more. Consider hosting a blog, or commenting frequently to interest groups. It establishes your expertise and positions you as a top-of-the-food-chain employer.

What information should an employer share?

Tell your story. Millennials reveal lots of information about themselves online and expect the same of you. They are tech savvy and expect instant gratification. If you don’t provide enough self-serve information on a 24/7 basis, millennials will move on to an employer who does. Create an online atmosphere where everything is at a potential employee’s disposal. Go beyond highlighting what your company does and include information about your values, profiles of employees, insights into the corporate culture and why it might be a good place for them to work.

How important is interaction?

Be responsive. If you want bad news to go viral, share it with a millennial. Provide feedback to job candidates early and often, even if it’s not the news they want to hear. If that person isn’t a fit, he or she may know someone who is. Besides, interviewees are potential customers, and you’ll be influencing their opinion of your company. Everyone is connected and things happen fast. You need to be careful how you interact, but you have to interact.

How do you know what to look for?

Find entrepreneurs. Nearly one-third of employers look for candidates with an entrepreneurial spirit. For millennials with little experience, this translates to those who are doing interesting things. Entrepreneurial young people are extremely active online. They have their own websites and side projects they discuss on social networks. Engage with these people, and you’ll find self-starters who’ll infuse your organization with change and innovation.

How do you avoid popular myths about millennials?

Ditch the stereotypes. Millennials are impatient kids looking for a quick buck, know-it-alls who don’t need the advice of experienced supervisors, right? Wrong. Millennials are confident, raised on a steady stream of validation. When it comes to careers, they seek advice more often than prior generations. And, they crave coaching. Contrary to popular myth, they do not rank salary as the highest factor when seeking a job. Good benefits concern them most — especially health care and retirement plans. They want a career, but they also want a life. They like flexible work environments with remote and mobile options.  They are socially conscious and want to give back. They want the same things as prior generations. They just prioritize differently and are more vocal about what they want.

Millennials are not just our present, they are our future. They are confident, connected and open to change. If you respond to how they are wired, you will not only attract the best talent, you will reap the benefits of their gifts and be investing in the people who may ultimately become the leaders of your organization.

Aimee Houde is director of Recruiting Services at Sequent. Reach her at (888) 456-3627 or by emailing

Insights HR Outsourcing is brought to you by Sequent

Published in Cincinnati