Sustainable Recruiting: How to Hire the Best Talent From Each Generation

Sustainability is a booming sector for recruitment and the competition is fierce to find the best talent. So how do you find high-performing candidates that fit well within your company’s ethos? Well, that depends on what exactly you are looking for. Examine the motivators for different generations as a starting point to find a good fit for your sustainability roles.

Generation Z (born between 1996-2010)

Diverse Generation Z is known for their deep interest in environmental issues and have the passion and drive to want to start their career in sustainability. They’ve grown up under the shadow of climate change and want to get involved and be accountable. With the increase in Sustainable Degrees, Masters and even MOOCs, Gen Z can take a purely academic route to get their foot in their door. These candidates feel the urgency to create change but may lack work experience. Don’t let that put you off. If you want your company to be held accountable for its social and environmental issues then Generation Zers are most likely to be the ones pushing for change.

Key drivers: Ownership of projects, diversity, creativity, high expectation of technology

Millennials (born between 1984-1995)

Socially-conscious Millennials started the big move towards sustainable working and, in fact, they would even take a pay cut to work in a company that values sustainability highly. Their keenness to work at ethical companies encouraged the spotlight to be turned on business practices and highlight areas of greenwashing. They are motivated by ethics and want to be part of sustainable change. They prefer regular communication with their managers so short-term goalsetting are best with this generation.

Key drivers: Regular recognition/feedback, work-life balance, regular communication and unique work experiences

Xennials (born between 1977-1983)

This micro-generation is wedged between two heavyweights but it is significant for many reasons. Old enough to remember an analogue childhood but young enough to embrace the new technology as it was introduced, these digital adapters are increasingly socially and environmentally conscious as they age. They love technology but understand the power of taking a break from it all. Engage your Xennial by appealing to their curious side and use their abilities to think innovatively on sustainable issues.

Key drivers: Digital entrepreneurs, challenging work opportunities, communication, digital detoxes

Generation X (born between 1965-1976)

As digital adopters Generation X has had to adapt to an increasingly changing world. They have seen their over-worked parents and wanted more work-life balance. The expectation towards flexible working has ultimately benefited us more now in the corona lockdowns but this generation started to lay the foundations. Generation X is more environmentally conscious than they baby boomers before them but they value their own role within the organisation. Get the best out of your Gen X by showing them the benefits of their efforts within environmental projects – they like to know what they are doing counts towards the bigger picture. They may have started their careers in other industries before moving into sustainability so they have a rich work experience to draw from.

Key drivers: Work-life balance, personal development, clear work goals, autonomy, knowledge-sharing

Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964)

Baby Boomers have been tarnished (rightly or wrongly) with many of the environmental issues today but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the due diligence to put things right. Hard-working and willing to put the hours in, they are a steady hand with clearly defined goals and deadlines. Unlikely to have started their careers within the sustainable sectors, they will probably have diverse work experience outside of the industry that can enrich their working practise. They will know how to navigate tricky business waters and can use their diplomacy to good effect.

Key drivers: Teamwork, loyalty to the company, workaholics, a sense of duty, decision-making opportunities

So, to summarise, the benefits of a multi-generational workforce goes without saying. Even without the broad generalisations about the differing age groups, a diverse team can benefit your company by bringing the age benefit of experience and youthful drive to your sustainable projects. Hiring across the age ranges makes good business sense as it avoids creating an echo chamber. Each generation has unique strengths and they can all learn from one another in the workplace to increase engagement and productivity.

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