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Let’s start with younger employees. Call them “Digital Natives,” “Screenagers,” or just “Millennials,” those born between 1981 and 1996 are the generation to come of age while Google was being created. Their successors, born between 1997 and 2012, are usually called “Generation Z” when not called the “iGeneration,” which refers to their coming of age alongside the iPhone. Following Gen X (b. 1965-80) and the Baby Boomers (b. 1946-64), these children of the internet are gradually dominating the workforce, leading many companies to devise strategies that will attract and retain them.
Pew Research found that Millennials became the largest workforce in the U.S. in 2016, representing more than one-in-three labor force participants. Millennials are also projected to tie Generation X as the most employed generation globally, with both combining to comprise 70 percent of the global workforce. While Generation Z has a while to go before they reach this level of workforce participation, they are already making an impression.
In an article for HR Zone last month, Worldwide ERC® Board member Merritt Q. Anderson identified the growing trend of programs focused on Millennials. Recognizing that they are climbing the ladder at many organizations, she explained that HR professionals “will come up with more creative ways to appeal to this generation’s unique sensibilities, including professional development, the opportunity to work abroad and perks like relocation packages that take care of pets as well as children.”
Much has been said about Millennials’ and Gen Z’s proclivity to job hop and their love of social media. A study by Zapier, however, found that contrary to popular belief, Millennial and Gen Z employees are loyal, planning to stay with their employers an average of 10 and 6 years , respectively. And while this cohort has a reputation for focusing too much on personal social media, the study found that one-third of Gen Z employees (33 percent) and almost two in five Millennial employees (39 percent) say they check their work email and messaging tools more than they check their personal social media.
LinkedIn’s 2020 Global Talent Trends report also sheds light on Millennials and Gen Z employees. It found that Millennials’ top skills are Adobe Photoshop, data analysis, and AutoCAD, while Gen Z’s top skills are Python, Cascading Style Sheets, and Adobe Premiere Pro.
However, each working generation, including Baby Boomers and Gen X, take time to learn new skills, leading to some individuals who don’t fit their generation’s stereotype. Regardless of employee age, skills training is essential and welcome.
The rising number of Millennials and Gen Z in the workforce has companies focusing on strategies to recruit and retain a younger workforce. The LinkedIn report revealed that 73 percent of talent professionals plan to focus on recruiting Millennials over the next five years, followed by Gen Z at 56 percent. This calls for a better understanding of what Millennials and Gen Z are looking for. The report revealed that the top three reasons Millennials leave their jobs are better compensation and benefits, career advancement, and more challenges. Mobility is a way for employers to offer these employees the challenge and skills-building experiences they crave. Research shows they’re willing, with 76 percent of 18 to 34 year-olds surveyed by Robert Half saying they would relocate for a job.
With all this talk about Millennials and Gen Z, it would be a mistake to overlook the substantial population of Gen X and Baby Boomers who remain in the workforce. The LinkedIn report shows that 60 percent of talent professionals plan to focus on retaining Gen X’s necessary skills. Luckily, Gen Xers stay in their jobs two times longer than their younger colleagues. Meanwhile Baby Boomers not only desire more challenges, but also more impact in their jobs, leading some companies to tap into this generation through “longevity strategies,” or even “returnships,” referring to when retired talent is invited back to their companies.
Millennials and Gen Z employees are undoubtedly changing the way companies manage talent and operate their business. Understanding what the younger generation of employees needs for success is crucial for talent management. Whether it’s mobility, learning new skills, or compensation and benefits, molding your talent strategy with all these age groups in mind can set your organization on the track to attracting, and retaining, the skilled talent it needs.
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