There’s an assumption pervading board rooms and
inner circles of management that high unemployment is tempering the
demands of candidates. I’ve got a simple response: Stop drinking the
While Baby Boomers still make up the largest
single generation and control corporate America’s purse strings, their
grip on the future is weakening. Baby Boomers no longer constitute the
majority of workers, although many managers continue to act like they
do. Here’s the new reality: the combined population of working age
Generation Xers and Yers swamps the Baby Boomer population by more 24
million people — 104 million compared to 78 million.
Underlying these numbers are four significant
trends that will trump the old recruiting rules during times of
unemployment. My favorite trend (for obvious reasons), cited by Kevin
Wheeler in “Why Recruiting Good People Will Get Harder and Harder,” is “Generational Mindset.”
Baby Boomers (born
1946-1964) are the most traditional workers these days. Most Baby
Boomers are still more comfortable “going to work.” Many find it
difficult to build a relationship without pressing the flesh. Their
lives and personal identities are also often defined by their work.
Generation X (born
1965-1979) also tends to associate work with a physical place of
business. They are, however, more open to working from home or on
virtual teams (virtual work is a second trend mentioned by Wheeler). A
career choice, whether it is a new job or promotion, often comes down to
which one offers the most flexibility for them and their family.
Generation Y (born
1982-1995), as most employers are discovering, do not really want to
work for any organization, especially those mired in hierarchy,
bureaucracy and policies. Work is something you do, not a place you go.
They want flexible, virtual work and are more likely to have multiple
jobs. According to Wheeler, “they are the hardest to recruit and the
hardest to retain. Yet, they are the future of most organizations as
Baby Boomers age and move out.”
A third trend, according to Wheeler, is flexible work arrangements. The
“normal” working day has been shattered. The time clock has become
almost irrelevant. Getting paid for hours worked is slowly but surely
being replaced by outcome and output. What does it matter if an employee
works early in the morning and late at night if the work gets done
correctly and on time?The lines have blurred between work, home and
play. Young parents demand time for their children. Women have become
primary breadwinners — when the kids are sick, dads stay home. “9 to 5”
work hours and 18-hour days just don’t cut it anymore.
The fourth trend that creates a significant hurdle
for old school recruiting is the stigma of an employee holding multiple
jobs. “Organizations still expect and seek loyalty,” says Wheeler,
“even though they have shown their employees little of that when times
get tough.” For many reasons, workers young and old are often working
two or more jobs. Most often it is because they need the money. But
others are holding down one full-time job while starting a new business
before-and-after hours. And still others are working while going to
school to prepare for a career not related to their current job.
Unfortunately, rejecting candidates in this day and age will
significantly reduce both the quantity and quality of your talent pool.
There is very little you can do to stop these
trends, especially as the demographic tide continues to shift. It will
be difficult to convince the talented candidate to work for an
organization that does not allow flexible work. The alternative is
obviously to recruit Baby Boomers who have grown up in a business world
without flexibility. But that’s a strategy with a slippery slope as more
and more Baby Boomers are demanding flexibility too. It’s also a
short-lived strategy as Boomers will eventually leave the workforce, one
way or the other.
The solution lies not in resisting the change but
embracing new and creative ways to recruit and manage employees.