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To recruit and retain: Mind the (generation) gap

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By Mike McNamara
May 28, 2013

The latest numbers show an unemployment rate of 7.6 percent, but that figure doesn’t tell the whole story about job opportunities. For college graduates, the unemployment rate has been dropping steadily over the past few years and now stands at 3.8 percent. Accounting and finance professionals are also seeing a healthier job market with an industry unemployment rate much lower than the national average.

This is certainly good news for job seekers with a bachelor’s degree or higher, and encouraging for those just preparing to enter the workforce. As the economy continues to recover, companies are now filling jobs that were once on hold and creating new ones, generating a job seeker’s market where many employed and passive candidates are not willing to move for any opportunity that comes along—a vast difference from just a few years ago.

In accounting and finance, the most in-demand jobs vary according to level of experience. Financial analysts, loan processors and underwriters are among the positions available for entry-level jobseekers; mid-level jobs include tax managers, tax supervisors, senior accountants and senior financial analysts. Controllers are back in demand at the senior level as seasoned professionals are beginning to now opt for retirement after stalling for a few years in light of the economic climate.

In this job seeker’s market, it’s more important than ever for companies to think about how they are maximizing organizational investment in their employees. This includes taking a deeper look at how they are attracting new employees, and even more importantly, retaining those who are high performers. When options are as plentiful as they currently are, it’s important to pay close attention to your plan for making your workplace desirable to those already working for the company and those you bring on board.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution—and job titles and skill sets play little part in the strategy. Rather, you must first understand the new multi-generational workforce and then customize a recruiting and retention strategy for each group. The current employment landscape in the U.S. is unique because there are four different generations actively participating in the workforce— the first time in history that this has occurred. This shift is due to many reasons, including a younger educated workforce, the desire some employees have to keep working past retirement, and the effects the financial crisis had on personal savings and 401 (K) values for many. Here’s a closer look at how to attract talented employees from each generation:

•         Traditionalists (1925-1945): This group had to put off, or come out of, retirement during the recession because of lost or shrunken retirement funds. They are less likely to be active job seekers or willing to move on a whim. Keeping them on staff is valuable as they bring a level of knowledge that younger workers simply may not have. Traditionalists want to know that a company appreciates their loyalty and depends on their vast knowledge and insight.

•         Baby Boomers (1946-1964): Many Boomers have no choice but to put in a few more years than anticipated at their jobs. An increasing number of workers in this group have found that their managers may now be younger than them, but they still expect a level of respect from superiors and subordinates. A way to attract these employees is to make sure they know their experience will be respected and valuable to the business. Boomers also appreciate opportunities to mentor so they can share the industry knowledge they’ve gathered during their career.

•         Generation X (1965-1979): This is the generation that wants it all—the success of their Baby Boomer parents, but with a higher level of flexibility to maintain work-life balance. With many employees in this generation waiting for their older counterparts to retire in order to move up the ladder, showing a clear path of progression is important to attract and retain Generation X’ers. These employees want to make sure they are able to maintain a level of stability between their jobs, their home and personal life. As dedicated as this group is to their jobs, it’s imperative to them that they are making the most of their lives outside of work.

•         Millennials (1980-2000): Also known was Generation Y, this group has gotten a reputation for being entitled and having unrealistic expectations about the workplace. Although some of that characterization is warranted, there is more to Millennials than that reputation; they are eager learners looking to work for organizations that have robust corporate social responsibility offerings. Work isn’t everything to them; flexibility is, and in many cases the line between the personal and the professional is blurred. Motivating this group with just money will be difficult, so consider playing into their interest in giving back to the community, perhaps offering one day off a month to volunteer.

Hiring dependable employees is never an easy task, but in this job market it’s even more difficult, so think a bit outside of the box. Gone are the days when a bonus, health benefits and gym membership were enough to entice all of your employees. These days, it’s vital to segment your approach generationally in order to get the best result for your business and from your employees. 

Mike McNamara is vice president of Accounting Principals.

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