Recruiters need to be aware of what is going on in the makeup of the workforce to better help clients meet their labor needs. The composition of your clients’ workforce will vary, but most have a spectrum of age groups represented. As demographic trends exert their influence and the workforce composition continues to shift, it becomes even more important to be alert to these effects. Knowing the demographic details of the workforce and how they interact is key to helping your client build and maintain a balanced and motivated base of employees.
These days, some employers have as many as five generations of employees working! This never-before-seen phenomenon presents both challenges and opportunities. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, these generations include the Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y (Millennials), and Gen Z. Taking a peek at how these generations are commonly grouped by age, we see:
Traditionalists - Born between 1922 to 1945
Baby Boomers – Born between 1946 to 1964
Gen X – Born between 1964 to 1980
Gen Y (Millennials) – Born between 1981 to 1996
Gen Z – Born between 1997 to 2012
Each of these groups often has loosely similar characteristics which the recruiter must consider when filling a position for a client. The recruiter also needs to be aware of the generational makeup of the client’s workforce to ensure that a proposed candidate will be a good fit. A recent White Paper1 gives some insights into the relative proportions of the most significant generations and what their characteristics are. What motivates each generational group, how they work, and what their expectations are vary widely from group to group. The recruiter must be flexible to achieve the best results!
Traditionalists’ proportion of the workforce is near vanishing as time exacts its toll. The last standing workers from this hard-working and conscientious generation might be the entrepreneurial founder of a company who resists handing off the baton or possibly those who work mostly out of habit or to provide supplemental income or benefits in their post-retirement years. Recruiters are unlikely to find themselves placing a candidate from this demographic group.
Baby Boomers, according to the website Statista, represent about six percent of the workforce and continue stubbornly to make their presence felt. They appreciate the value of work, look for intellectual stimulation, like interpersonal contact, enjoy creating things, and are generally self-reliant, skilled, and optimistic. Since their formative years took place during the Space Race and the Cold War they grew up with rapid technological change and readily adopted new ideas. They may find themselves today, however, clinging to known, time-worn ways of working in the face of new unproven methodologies. The shrinking group of Boomers often work gig assignments, do volunteer work, or mentor others.
Gen X workers represent about thirty-five percent of the workforce. They want to make their mark and often can be impatient with their progress. They may sometimes lack the work ethic of Boomers and instead value family and friends before work. This generation has, however, proven to be hard-working, but they demonstrate a lack of trust in large institutions.
Gen Y or Millennials compose about thirty-five percent of the force and are very focused on the internet for all their information. This rapidly growing group is seen as having very high expectations and has a very short attention span. Millennials are graduating into higher-level positions and are likely to become the dominant force in the workforce by 2025. They prefer having flexible work choices available to them and have demonstrated a readiness to change jobs. This turnover represents an opportunity for recruiters to make placements!
Gen Z workers complete the last twenty-four percent of the workforce and represent another fast-growing segment. They are hard-working, like solving problems, and are often devoted to social causes. They insist on prompt and frequent feedback on their performance. Their focus on social causes may create challenges for clients who typically prefer to maintain a hands-off, apolitical stance in the functioning of their business.
Given the widely varying characteristics of these groups it is easy to understand why having an effective team is such a challenge. Imagine a firm with all five generations present and the interesting mix of work ethics, expectations, value systems, technological familiarity, and communication skills that is represented! Recruiters can understand the makeup of the client’s workforce and fine tune candidates to make sure that they can successfully function in their new roles if they are aware of THE DYNAMICS OF TODAY’S WORKFORCE!
1 White Paper. “Engaging the Workforce Across Generations.” Human Resource Executive, 2023.