A fascinating observation I have made over the past 20 years of working with job seekers (and the companies looking to recruit them) is the change in motivations of each of the generations in the workforce. Much like your organization has different marketing materials, whether they are selling a product or a service, or whether they are selling B2B, B2C or B2G (business to government), it occurs to me that most recruiting folks have grown up writing one job for each job that was supposed to appeal to every job seeker. “How in the world do you expect to appeal to all our potential customers using only one angle or point of view?” you might ask. How indeed….

At any given time, there are portions of 4 generations in a workforce. In this case, those four generations are: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z. If we are trying to speak to each of these generations individually with our job ads, we best know what motivates them when it comes to work. So, let’s make this easy by assigning one word to each generation.

Baby Boomers: SECURITY

At the current time, almost 80% of Baby Boomers have retired from the workforce on a full-time basis. In the next 2.5 years, that accelerates quickly with more than 90% of them out of the workforce by 2026. To this generation (yours truly included), security and certainty were everything. Jobs and money were hard to come by, so employers appealed to us with a promise of a long-term employment engagement.


In contrast to the Baby Boomers, being seen and appreciated for their work has defined this generation for almost three decades. One theory is that this generation was the first to experience both parents working as a norm, and they were sometimes referred to as “latchkey kids.” Whatever the root cause of this need, many in this generation seek recognition, money and promotion as proof that their employer values them.

Millennials: FREEDOM

Now, before you react to this word for millennials, please understand that the freedom I am describing is not a physical freedom, but more so a freedom to solve problems creatively using their almost unlimited access to information. This generation is the first to have access to the combined knowledge of the history of the world in 15 seconds their entire lives. They were not interested in “doing what we’ve always done” because they could find best practices, benchmarks, and new ideas from around the globe. The video games that they played centered on a single idea: problem solving. Problems were not things to be feared; they were things to be embraced and to overcome with information and creative thinking.

Generation Z: PURPOSE

The oldest generation Z folks are roughly 25 this year. This generation wants to know how and why their work matters…not just to the company, but to the world. Their desire for connection to the end result of their work has been shaped by their access to world events on their phone in 10 seconds. “Does the work I do matter, and to whom?” they might ask. They also can change jobs at a moment’s notice, so being able to answer that question in an interview is something you may want to start thinking about now.

Four generations…four motivations…four different purposes to go to work. Still think one job ad to speak to all of them will work?

If you are looking for insight or specific action steps to grow a process within your organization to Win the War for Talent, please reach out. It’s my passion to help companies solve their talent issues, whether that is finding the right talent or retaining and developing that talent. With the right processes in place, your organization can grow and thrive even more!

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