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Mon, Nov 8, 2010

Talent Strategies

The Non-Generational Talent of American Workers

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According to conventional wisdom, successful recruiting now requires that we carefully tailor our sourcing and selling strategies to the differences among America’s generations.  The assumption is that we can’t recruit a Millennial the same way you recruit a Boomer, and we can’t recruit a Boomer the same way we recruit a Gen Xer.

It’s certainly a logical perspective given the real differences in values, behaviors and aspirations among the groups.  But here’s the rub: we aren’t recruiting generations, we’re recruiting talent.  So, what’s important is not what makes talented people different, but rather, what makes them alike.  And, the most talented among Millennials, Gen Xers and Boomers have a lot in common.  They share attributes and goals, preferences and practices that are best described as “career activism.”

What is career activism?

Career Activism is an outlook based on 2 ideas:

1. Career activists see themselves as “persons of talent.”

That doesn’t mean they have a skill employers need but rather, that they possess a capacity for excellence that they are determined to express and experience on-the-job.  They are self-motivated to be peak performers, and for that reason, they will not tolerate being boxed into mediocrity or boxed out of meaningful work.

2. Career activists devote themselves to being as expert at the management of their career as they are in their chosen field of work.

In other words, they never, ever look for a job, but they are almost always on the lookout for a career advancement opportunity.  They want to be challenged at work so they can increase their satisfaction as well as their paycheck.

Where’s the proof that such people exist?  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, between February and April of this year, more Americans resigned from their jobs (2 million) than were laid off (1.7 million).  These career activists were drawn from all three of our generations.  They were on the move because they were confident of their talent and committed to finding the best place to employ it.

What does all that mean for employers and recruiters?  Well, as we all know, the Golden Rule of Recruiting states that “what we do to recruit the best talent will also recruit mediocre talent, but the converse is not true.”  In other words, if we want to pack our organizations with peak performers, we have to tailor our recruiting strategy and process to their attributes.

For example, career activists want their talent to be recognized and respected.  They don’t respond to job postings which are so bland and dull they would put a comatose person to sleep.  Similarly, they don’t see themselves as a job seeker – even a passive one – so they visit only those job boards that serve their career interests as well as their employment goals.

Of course, generational differences are real and important and shouldn’t be ignored.  But in recruiting, our success depends upon our ability to find, engage and ultimately access the best talent for our organizations.  And the best and brightest of every generation are very much alike in their dedication to both their own excellence in their field and their own advancement in their career.

They are, in short, career activists.  And, it’s that defining persona to which we should tailor our recruitment.


About the Author: Peter Weddle has been the CEO of three HR consulting companies, a Partner in the Hay Group and the recipient of a Federal award for leadership-related research.  Described by The Washington Post as “… a man filled with ingenious ideas,” he has authored or edited over two dozen books and been a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, National Business Employment Weekly and CNN.com.  He is also the CEO of WEDDLE’s Research & Publications which speacializes in employment and workforce issues.

WEDDLE’s Guides to Internet employment sites are the gold standard of their genre, leading the American Staffing Association to call Weddle the “Zagat of the online employment industry.”  His most recent books, The Career Activist Republic and Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System, offer a frank yet positive assessment of the challenges and opportunities available to working men and women in 21st Century America.

Weddle is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point.  He has attended Oxford University and holds advanced degrees from Middlebury College and Harvard University.

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