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The Non-Generational Talent of America’s Workforce
There have been more than a few articles and blog posts written about the differences among America’s three generations. As we all now know, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials have very dissimilar tastes and ways of behaving. While those differences should clearly shape the sale of clothes or entertainment, however, they should not be considered when selling a job. Indeed, the best way to recruit top talent is not to recognize what makes the generations different, but rather to focus on what makes them alike.
The conventional wisdom, of course, is exactly the opposite. We are urged to tailor our recruitment advertising, career site messaging and other communications to acknowledge that:
In effect, we counseled to see each of the generations as an inviolate caste and shape our employment value proposition to their respective attributes.
There’s just one problem with that line of reasoning. We aren’t recruiting generations; we’re recruiting talent. Therefore, what’s more important is not what makes each generation different, but rather, what makes the top talent in all generations alike. In other words, the “A” and “B’ level performers in all generations share certain attributes and values, and it’s those characteristics we should focus on when recruiting them.
I call this cross-generational cohort “career activists.” As I detail in my book The Career Activist Republic, they work in all professions, crafts and trades and in all industries. You’ll find them at all levels of seniority and across all levels of work experience. They may dress, talk and display body art very differently, but they all share a single common aspiration: they want to be the best they can be in their field. They each view themselves as a “person of talent” and they are committed to expressing and experiencing that capacity for excellence in their work.
Ironically, every single one of us is endowed with such a capacity. Our culture, however, pushes us to see talent as something that’s reserved for extraordinary people. We can recognize the talent of Lady Gaga or Bono, but not the talent of a gracious salesperson in a retail store, an attentive customer service representative on the phone or a skilled bus driver in our hometown. And that’s plain wrong. Every human being is endowed with the gift of talent, but only career activists are willing to do the hard work required to discover what theirs is and make it the centerpiece of their career. Only career activists believe they can and must be the best they can be.
To realize that aspiration, they share a range of values, but the two most important are:
Where’s the proof that such career activists are out there in the workforce?
Consider these facts:
How do you recruit career activists? You tailor your recruitment tactics – your recruitment advertising, career site messaging and recruitment process – to their shared aspirational values, not to their generational differences. I’ll explore each of those three tactics in my next column.
Thanks for reading,
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