In this complex and fast-moving environment, a core challenge for business owners and managers is to attract and retain skilled talent.
The current workforce available for hire is incredibly rich and diverse. From the tech-savvy iGen looking for their first role, to the not-yet retired Traditionalists looking to keep busy, there are currently five generations of Australians working or looking for work.
It’s imperative that you first have an idea of who you might want to hire, the likely demographic they belong to, understand them and then tailor your advertising accordingly. While not all people within a generation are exactly the same, there are key factors that can help you get your head around how best to reach out to them.
You will need to tailor what you say and where you say it. Understanding how the various generations are interacting with specific media, is critical. Knowing how best to get their attention on their media of choice is the key to success.
Let’s say for example that you’re looking to recruit for a graduate program, you can be confident that putting in your efforts into a social media campaign is highly likely to reach the right demographic.
With multiple channels from social media to outdoor to digital competing for attention, identifying, targeting, and communicating with candidates is no longer as simple as putting up an advert on a job board and waiting for the right person to come calling.
As with all marketing campaigns, your talent attraction strategy needs to start with a clear view on who your target market is, then tailor an approach that reaches and resonates with those people.
iGen, aka Generation Z (born 1996 and after)
As research firm Universum confirms, this generation is 100% digitally native, having never experienced the pre-internet world. They are also the first ‘truly global’ generation. Highly entrepreneurial, they are keen to start their own business, to be their own boss and ‘have an impact’. Research shows their top career goals are work-life balance and to be secure in their jobs.
The report also found that this generation was open to be contacted proactively by companies for opportunities. Focussed on finding their dream jobs, they fear being trapped in a position with no growth opportunities, where they won’t be able to achieve their career goals.
This gives hiring managers some clear guidelines on how to target this particular generation: using digital content and social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube to target them, being proactive in contacting them, and putting an emphasis on messages around career growth potential within their business.
Millennials, aka Generation Y (born 1980 to 1995)
Often recognised as the first generation with different workforce behaviour to previous generations, Gen Ys are shaking things up. According to a Payscale and Millennial Branding research piece, they don’t think workers should be expected to stay more than one year with their current employer.
They’re fast learners who bring expertise in emerging skills to the workforce, including mastery of new business-relevant technology. They are ambitious and eager for their career to take off, but may not be great team players.
Businesses looking to hire millennials should consider social media as a platform to target workers of this generation, as well as digital platforms and outdoor. Highlight any professional development benefits within job ads. Don’t be surprised by your candidates’ previous job hopping. It’s in their DNA!
Generation X (born 1965 to 1979)
A study by Ernst & Young found Gen X are good team players and make better managers than Baby Boomers or Gen Y. They generate revenue, and are adaptable, problem-solving, and collaborative.
Although career-oriented, they place strong emphasis on family and are looking for workplace flexibility as the most important perk. They are most likely to walk away from a job if flexibility isn’t available.
Attracting Gen X-ers, hiring managers should consider both traditional job boards, social media and networking. A multi-pronged approach will be the best way to get through to this generation of workers. Your job ads should include benefits like flexibility, and career development opportunities. It’s also worth considering an ‘always on’ employer branding strategy, because skilled and experienced Gen X’ers are in big demand in many industries. They often are not on the job market for long and positioning your company as a preferred ‘first port of call’ can pay dividends.
Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964)
According to Forbes, Baby Boomers are not a passive generation; they have a purpose, high expectations and push hard to reach their goals. They have strong work ethics and are committed. They will often work longer hours and are less likely to switch employers often throughout their career. Their experience and knowledge will be a huge asset to your business.
Whether you’re looking for a full timer, part time or consulting role, you’ll be likely to find candidates from that generation by using traditional avenues such as job boards, networking and head hunters. However, don’t think that this generation isn’t connected. They’re frequent users of social media, search engines and smartphones. Their presence on Facebook is overwhelming, something not to miss when looking to attract them.
Traditionalists (born 1945 and before)
Traditionalists still in the workplace or looking to stay active with part time work or consulting, generally bring support and mentorship, their long years of experience is invaluable.
They can be characterised as hard-working, loyal, respectful of authority, but are often less technologically-adept than other generations. However, they are more likely to have great interpersonal skills, having been more accustomed to dealing with people eye-to-eye.
In order to reach this generation, your mediums will include community papers and noticeboards, radio and possibly job boards. Thinking well outside the box, you could also build a campaign that targets their children and grandchildren on Facebook. This is a particularly interesting strategy for agricultural, trade or manufacturing roles, where there’s skills and experience to be tapped but the candidate may not be actively looking for a job.
With such differences in the market, taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach to your recruitment isn’t going to deliver you the best candidate. You can appreciate there will be some substantial differences in tone, content and placement necessary to appeal to each generation.
Understanding more about the people who have the skills you need is, therefore, crucial. While it’s their capabilities that spark the search, it’s knowledge of their demographics, habits and where they spend time that will help bring them on board.
About the author
Big Splash, a talent attraction specialist, providing companies with effective and engaging recruitment ad design, copywriting, media advice and digital employer branding.Sharon Davies is the Founding Director of