Talent acquisition is becoming more competitive as America is closer to full employment than it’s been in a decade. Savvy graduates entering fields like engineering can expect to be courted by corporations spending a lot of money to prove how innovative, “cool” and relevant they are.

Retaining these new workers, along with their more experienced co-workers, is a challenge, too. Millennial employees are often not motivated by the same incentives that kept their grandparents in lifelong jobs. Meaning and purpose might actually outweigh raises. Loyal baby boomers are facing chasms of uncertainty as health insurance is kept in flux by politicians and health costs keep increasing. A company’s benefits package can be a stronger incentive than salaries at less stable competitors.

Welcome to the dynamics of the five-generation workplace. We now have traditionalists, boomers, Generation X, millennials and Generation Z employed under the same roof. HR has to wrangle the whole herd in a way that recognizes differences, avoids discrimination lawsuits, motivates positive performance and treats everyone equally under one employee handbook.

The good news is that it can all be learned, making training professionals even more strategic to the organization.

Wooing New Talent with an HR Brand

At the recruitment level, HR needs to be trained to engage “employee customers” -prospective employees who are looking for an organization that resonates with their own personal brand. They can be just as fickle as the company’s paying customers.

Younger generations simply don’t resonate with traditional compensation and benefit package presentations. They want to be part of exciting teams doing high-profile, future-anticipating work that defines who they are. At the same time, HR can’t give away the shop just to appease bright new talent. It has to couple the company’s feasible offerings with employee customers’ demands.

Rethinking jobs as brands can start with adopting a shared success model to balance recruitment offerings. This model aligns individual development plans with organizational strategies to identify where overlap exists and where there are gaps. Participants learn how to build the model with five areas of importance:

  • Individual needs: What is important to the candidate, both professionally and personally? What aligns with his or her values and interests?
  • Individual offer: What value does the organization bring to the candidate?
  • Company needs: What does your organization require for success now and in the future? What do you need from your leaders and employees?
  • Company offer: What is your corporate value proposition to the candidate? What opportunities do you provide? What culture do you provide?
  • Planning: Analyze the gaps and overlap between each quadrant. Develop and implement a plan that balances your grid for shared success.

Retaining New and Legacy Talent with Generational Awareness

As expensive as recruitment is, HR can always use refresher courses in retention in the five-generation workplace. Childhood experiences shape our behavior in the workplace. Every generation has its unique experiential assets and its baggage that sometimes gets in the way and creates conflict.

HR can navigate the different motivators and worldview of particular generations, whether by seeking out high performers for leadership roles or by providing basic skills-based training. At the same time, it should avoid stereotyping the behaviors of any generation.

Training interventions can address this challenge by framing employee development with common goals and communications models that translate across all generations. HR can also play a role by embracing behavioral preferences and differences among different generations and looking for complementary strengths that are inherent in each.

Mastering leadership across generations starts by practicing the following four steps, embedded in learning experiences:

  • Acknowledgment: putting the issue or challenge on the table without blame or judgment
  • Appreciation: identifying the common goal or need and understanding the “why” behind the other’s behavior
  • Adaptation: exploring options and alternatives for agreement
  • Alignment: agreeing on the “go-forward,” restating the plan and following up to ensure it’s working

Human resources, like other training clients, has become more complex as a wider range of generations vies for careers in the same organization. The training function has the opportunity to provide leadership that ensures a competitive HR brand, a sustainable succession process and positive organizational performance.