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2016 Recruiting Trends: Boomers Beware! The Generation Balance has Flipped

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By Kim Shepherd, CEO, and Loren Miner, COO
With Tom Brennan, Master Writer


Your adaptation muscles are probably sore from the workout they got dealing with constant change in 2015. Well, stay hydrated — 2016 is going to step up the pace. No one in recruiting will be surprised that the competition for top talent will continue to intensify. See the recent blog by Nicole Cox, Decision Toolbox’s (DT) Chief Recruitment Officer, for some tips in that area.

Another trend that will surface is the fact that Boomers and Millennials (Gen Y) are switching places. Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are retiring — the oldest members of that cohort have reached 70 and the youngest are hitting their 50s. Many Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, are in their 30s and moving into management roles.

Overnight Flip

For Kim (co-author of this post) it seemed to happen overnight. She used to kick off speaking engagements by asking all the Boomers to raise their hands, and then asking the Millennials to do so. For some time her audiences were 80% Boomers. After a couple of jokes about “those Millennial brats,” she would then try to persuade the Boomers to be more accepting of Millennials’ values. One day, not long ago, the percentage flipped. The brats were in the majority. Time for some new jokes!

The impact on the workplace, including talent acquisition, could be significant. As hiring managers (HMs), Millennials can be more demanding. They often have higher expectations, insisting on hiring in their own image. If their HR/recruitment partner is a Boomer, it can be challenging.

Millennials Want Clones

At the risk of over-generalizing, Boomers approach their direct reports saying something like, “You report to me, and I will show you the way.” In contrast, Millennials are more likely to say, “You report to me, now let’s do this together.” Millennials will listen to others’ opinions, but ultimately they believe they are right and therefore they want clones of themselves.

Input from DT’s Recruiters supports these ideas. They are seeing HMs become increasingly pickier, in spite of the talent pool growing increasingly shallower. Despite candidates having the advantage in this market, Millennials don’t want to court them. When we present a highly qualified candidate, HMs still want to see more choices, even though most qualified candidates have other offers.

What’s a Recruiter to Do?

If you’re a Boomer recruiter working with a Millennial HM, a good first step is to up your emotional intelligence (EQ) and take the time to understand the HM’s values. Loren (the other co-author) shared some insights into developing this skill in an interview with Fast Company. For example, you may place a high value on face-to-face interactions, while the Millennial HM prefers to text and tweet.

In fact, Kim has flipped her shtick to exhort Millennials to be more open to Boomer insights. And it doesn’t matter what generation you’re from, the fact is that “A” talent has many options in this market. The only part of the recruitment process that HMs control completely is rejecting candidates. Of course, that’s easy. The trick is teaching HMs to accept candidates who are viable without matching the HM’s wish list.

Recruiters also will need tactics that are more, well, strategic. They’ll need to push back a little and get HMs to brainstorm. For example, when HMs ask for specific experience, Recruiters should encourage them to focus instead on transferable skills. Then brainstorm about other kinds of roles in which candidates might acquire those skills. You may not find an exact clone, but you’ll have a much deeper pool to work with. And maybe a fresh pair of eyes will be useful.

We suspect you’ll also have to work harder to maintain your hiring ratios. Recruiters may not be able to carry as many searches as they have in the past. Searching and networking will require more time, and candidates may need more interview preparation.

The year ahead of us is going to be interesting, one way or another. The prizes, though, will go to those who can flex and adapt best. Next up in our look at 2016 trends: not industry disruptors, but solution disruptors . . . whole professions could simply go away.

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