Six generations in one workforce makes HR's job a little trickier. It comes with more perspectives and a broader swath of workers' needs to consider, but for Paycor CHRO Karen Crone, it's this diversity of experience and viewpoint that makes multigenerational organizations stronger.
HR Dive asked her about talent management strategies, how to better recruit across age groups and when implicit bias can prevent a multi-gen workforce from thriving. Her solution to many of these scenarios is simple: take the time to see every worker as an individual. Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.
HR Dive: What long-term impact can age-based generalizations or stereotypes have on workplaces?
Crone: When we stereotype on age we cut off the innovative power of our workforce. There are six living generations, and most of them remain in the workforce. When we generalize based on age, we miss the ideas and lessons learned that come from experience. Likewise, we miss fresh approaches to problem-solving that come from new vantage points.
HR Dive: How can talent professionals avoid stereotyping workers in different generations?
Crone: Success in HR is about relating to individuals. It’s about cultivating the one-on-one trusting relationships that result in candid performance and coaching conversations. This starts with a personal connection. It’s hard to make these connections if you do not leave room for individual differences or preferences as a result of generational archetypes. This same philosophy extends to managers, too.
HR Dive: Should you communicate differently to workers of different generations? Are there HR best practices for effectively communicating to workers regardless of age?
Crone: Where possible we should always target communication to the audience. Every day we are inundated with data, messages and information. The content that stands out to us, that we take the time to consume, is the content that is most applicable to our personal situations. It’s not about communicating based on generations, but on the needs of the audiences. There’s a different message for the first-time enrollee in a 401(k) than to one who is making catch-up contributions. The best practice is to think about the personas in your organization and what’s most important to them.
HR Dive: A lot of talent professionals are trying to anticipate what Gen Z wants at work and how to attract this group. How can HR strategize for recruitment without stereotyping them?
Crone: There’s no better way to tap into Gen Z than to ask them. One way that Paycor gets input is by connecting with local universities and offering capstones, class projects and internships to get input on our careers website, mobile tools, collateral and social media. It’s a win-win. We learn their interests and they get a real-world experience. We have found that when we turn the problem and the data over to associates, we get a far better outcome than solving it in the back room.
HR Dive: Does familiarity with the big life events each generation faces help HR and other leaders to customize management styles for different generational groups?
Crone: Understanding these life events is less about customizing management styles and more about customizing programs and their associated communication. Most employees — regardless of generation — want similar things at work; to be challenged, to make meaningful contributions, to have a voice, to be recognized and valued, and to work with people they like and respect. Individual life circumstances like debt or child-rearing or retirement do not change these basic needs.
HR Dive: How can HR and talent professionals be a force for undoing generational stereotypes — for example, the perceived entitlement of millennials?
Crone: HR pros can be a force by reframing the conversation: What do millennials bring to the workforce? What positive ways have we benefited from their contributions? HR pros can also influence the generational makeup of teams and working groups. When you work side by side with talented people, it’s hard not to develop an affinity for them.
HR Dive: What has Paycor implemented recently to make the workplace more inclusive of all age groups and aware of age-based bias?
Crone: Paycor took a persona-based refresh of our Total Rewards strategy. The personas reflect age, gender and generational characteristics. We invited associates into discussions about benefits from the early stages of the refresh. We took their counsel and made changes that appealed to as many incumbent groups as possible — from PTO plans to leave benefits to 401(k) changes. We continue to refine the strategy by considering benefits targeted to student loan management and mental health. We believe in treating people with respect and in creating a collaborative environment. When we evaluate our policies and practices from the perspectives of age, gender, race and generations, everyone benefits. A rising tide lifts all ships.