Are Some Generational Identities a Better “Fit” for Your Organization?

Image: Are Some Generational Identities a Better “Fit” for Your Organization?

Increasingly our clients are facing a challenge with recruiting the “right” employees, retaining high performers and figuring out how best to manage the employees they have on their teams.  The reason this is becoming an issue is that senior leaders are realizing that the old tried and true methods of recruitment and leadership aren’t working with Gen Y new hires.  As younger employees become a larger percentage of the workforce, their values and expectations are being communicated and demanded with a louder voice. So the question is often posed (behind closed doors); “which generation is going to fit into our organizational culture”? The answer depends on your current culture, your desired future state and the roles you need to recruit for.

Given our work, research and expertise for more than 12 years in the area of generational differences, identities and expectations we naturally view HR issues through a generational lens.  However, not every issue can be answered with a generational response. The reason we take a behaviour approach at n-gen – meaning that we focus on the behaviours employees and customer demonstrate, rather than just their chronological age – is that we know that despite one’s birth year, people can align and identify with a different generational mindset.  So understanding generational identities is still very important, but the focus should be on the behaviours that employees are demonstrating, not just how old they are.

For example, you may have a 25-year-old “Traditionalists” within your workforce.  They have come from a traditionalist background, they have experienced a traditionalist up-bringing and/or possess traditional values of loyalty, respect for authority, and prefer a very structured work environment.  Many of our clients still possess very traditional work environments or work within traditionalist industries such as:

  • Banking
  • Insurance
  • Oil & Gas
  • Manufacturing
  • Government

In this case, those that have a traditionalist mindset (regardless of their age) may be a good fit for your work environment. This means that you can still target Gen Ys for recruitment and participate in campus job fairs, but you need to be open, honest and transparent about your work environment. You need to clearly state your expectations so that you can tap into younger employees that will be most successfully in your current environment. The most important points to communicate to new hires to ensure alignment are:

  • If you require a structured career path, based on a set timeframe before promotions are considered
  • The level of client interfacing / senior level exposure they will have early in their career
  • The type of work they will perform – administrative, analytical, creative
  • Work style expectations – hours, structure, environment, dress
  • Performance management process
  • Rewards for high performers
  • The value of the work – how does it contribute to the big picture
  • What makes the work environment fun or not so much fun

On the flip side, some clients say, they are traditionalist in nature but want to shift their culture to be more open and collaborative.  In this scenario, be aware of how different generations perceive change, their comfort level with it and which generational behaviours will help you reach your desired state.  Not only might you need to hire different types of employees, you will also likely need to spend time helping leaders adjust their management style and understand what new behaviours are expected for them. You may also need to hire young employees who think and act like the typical Gen Y / Millennial so that the status quo can be challenged, new technology can be embraced and changes are quickly accepted, embraced and implemented.

Each generational identity possesses unique strengths.  Understanding which best fit your organizational culture will assist you in tailoring your recruitment efforts, focusing on the right actions to increase retention, and minimize conflict when new employee integrate into your work environment.


Giselle Kovary

As president and co-founder of n-gen People Performance Inc., Giselle is dedicated to building strategies and programs that target, motivate and engage a multigenerational workforce. She is a sought after resource to industry leaders, having worked with 18 of the top Fortune 500 companies. Over 60,000 people globally have experienced an n-gen workshop or presentation. She has devoted more than fifteen years to researching the impact that generational differences have on organizational performance. Giselle has co-authored two books: Loyalty Unplugged: How to Get, Keep & Grow All Four Generations and Upgrade Now: 9 Advanced Leadership Skills. She has a Master’s degree in communication studies from the University of Windsor.

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