How Pharma Leaders Can Recruit Different Generations: Tips, Strategies & More

By Mitch Robbins on December 1, 2023

Diversity is not just about different backgrounds or perspectives, but also about different generations. The mix of Baby Boomers' wisdom, Gen X's leadership, Millennials' collaborative spirit, and Gen Z's tech prowess can create a powerhouse of an R&D team. But achieving this blend in the pharmaceutical industry? Quite a challenge.

A homogeneous workforce in a pharma company, while comfortable, can limit growth and innovation. Like a garden full of the same plants, it surely has beauty, but lacks the vibrant interplay of colors, shapes, and sizes. A multigenerational team, on the flip side, has a rich blend of experiences, ideas, and approaches that can spur creativity and drive progress. Indeed, 89% of workers see generational diversity as a positive attribute to their workplace, according to a LiveCareer study.

But how do you attract and retain this wide range of talent? How do you understand and cater to the unique ambitions and motivations of each generation? And lastly, how do you avoid recruitment pitfalls that could turn potential candidates away?

In this blog post, we'll share the most practical tips and strategic advice to help pharma leaders manage multigenerational recruitment and build a diverse, dynamic R&D team.

Generational Theory

A generation is a group of people who were born in the same time period and grew up in similar conditions. People in these groups tend to share similar characteristics, preferences, and values with others in the same groups.

Generational Theory is a broad classification that shows where to start communicating and influencing people of different ages. There are great differences between generations, and to determine the candidate’s belonging to a particular group, it is important to know the years when each of them begins and ends.

Today’s workforce consists of 4 distinct generations:

  1. Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. They are the oldest layer of the current workforce, between the ages of 58–77 years old, and nearing retirement.
  2. Generation X were born between 1965 and 1980. Now, they are between the ages of 42 and 58.
  3.  Millennials (also known as Generation Y) were born between 1981 and 1996. They are between the ages of 26 and 42.
  4. Generation Z were born between 1997 and 2012. The oldest workers are 25 years old at the moment.

Generations show similar characteristics such as communication style, shopping tastes, and motivational preferences as they were influenced by trends in roughly the same life stage and through similar channels (e.g., online, TV, mobile). Generational trends are most noticeable as people come of age. This means that members of a particular generation will share similar values, beliefs, and expectations.

It is important to remember that everyone is different on an individual level. But if you look at people through the prism of generations, you can get a useful sequence that will help you communicate, work, motivate, and engage people of different ages.

Recruitment strategy for Baby Boomers

The Baby Boomer generation has been in the labor market for more than half of the century. Although 10,000 boomers reach retirement age every day, 65% of them plan to work past age 65, according to a Pew Research survey.

The Baby Boomer generation refers to a group of people born right after World War II and shaped by the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, and Watergate. The homecoming of soldiers, along with economic success in the late 40s-50s, resulted in a significant rise in births called the “baby boom”.

Boomers entered the workforce at a time when there was more competition for employment than ever before due to the massive increase in the working-age population. The result was a workforce full of determined, competitive, and goal-oriented young adults who perceived their jobs as a source of personal pride. This group has commonly been labeled "workaholics" due to their steadfast devotion to their companies.

How to attract and retain Baby Boomers

  • Don’t reject traditions

Boomers prefer the traditional hiring process, including formal resumes and in-person interviews. They use old but reliable ways to find a job, like word of mouth, recommendations, or ads. The pharma employer won’t go wrong if they choose conservative public ceremonies and awards as recognition methods for this generation.

  • Maintain workplace visibility

Older workers are less inclined to take advantage of remote work opportunities. They want their boss to know that they are reliable professionals who put in long hours till the clock strikes five every day. Besides, baby boomers place a premium on how they look in the workplace. They may reject the absence of the dress code since they have worn suits all their lives.

  • Recognize their achievements

Baby boomers are the most loyal generation of all the current ones. They are willing to give their all to one company for years, going the extra mile out of a sense of duty, even if no one asked them to. Public recognition of accomplishments will increase your chances of keeping boomers on board.

  • Develop a culture that welcomes aged workers

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act safeguards workers over the age of 40 against any kind of discrimination in the workplace, including subtle or overt ageism. Your R&D personnel, regardless of age, need regular support and mentorship, opportunities to enhance their skills and knowledge, and recognition for their efforts.

Recruitment strategy for Generation X 

In a world so preoccupied with millennials and baby boomers, Generation X can be assigned the forgotten “middle child” status. The original name for this generation was "Gen Bust" because the birth rate was very low during that time. The X-gen was formed under the influence of the AIDs epidemic, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the dot-com boom, and constantly busy parents, which made them independent but with a hint of skepticism about their parents’ “over-commitment” to their jobs.

Most X-ers are in the mid-range right now and moving confidently toward top positions. They are proud of their individuality and entrepreneurial spirit, fully integrated into the labor market, pay their own taxes, and work to build and improve their careers. According to the Deloitte survey, 55% of modern companies’ founders are members of Generation X.

How to attract and retain X-ers

  • Do not push with reports and restrictions

Generation X is known for their organizational skills. They know how to handle stress and get the job done on time. Managers who require constant reporting can demotivate their X-employees. Of course, there are some activities that require constant monitoring, but this is an exception. Not the rule. Remember, Generation X members are independent and autonomous.

  • Give them challenges

X-ers are highly adaptable. This allows its members to work even in very technology-dependent environments. They love challenges. Their work ethic allows them to perform well in difficult situations. They can start a new project in an unexplored field from scratch and bring it to an end with ease, so feel free to challenge them with more complicated tasks.

  • Flexible schedule

Generation X strives for a good work-life balance. Remember that X-ers grew up watching their parents constantly work to move up the corporate ladder. The ability to balance work and personal life without sacrificing the second one is a vital point to keep in mind when it comes to employee engagement and retention.

  • Career opportunities

X-ers are more likely to leave the company if they don't see room for growth. Gen-X members have a unique set of entrepreneurs and management skills that you can use for your business, from project management to building companies. Note that the older members of the generation will still work for about 10+ years and the younger ones for 30+. This means that your gen-X R&D employees will be of great importance to the organization for quite some time, and you should do all you can to keep them within the company.

Recruitment strategy for Millennials

Starting in 2018, millennials became the largest generation in the U.S. workforce; 75% of the U.S. workforce will be millennials by 2025. Shaped by the Columbine shooting, 9/11 and technology, millennials grew up in a rapidly changing and highly competitive world.

Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are diverse and highly educated. They are fast learners, technically savvy, seek for new knowledge, and constantly receive a large amount of information. Aside from diversity, Gallup’s State of the American Workplace Report found that 87% of millennials rated professional career growth as important at their job. Unlike X-ers, millennials are not willing to wait for years for promotion – they want to achieve success as quickly as possible.

How to attract and retain Millennials

  • Pay attention to teamwork

One of the changes in education during the time millennials were going to school was an increased emphasis on teamwork and group projects. From elementary to high school, it was common for people of this generation to perform tasks in a team. A pharma R&D employer should create friendly, collaborative teams in which interrelated tasks are distributed. It will help unlock the potential of millennials and make them feel more comfortable.

  • Build a strong company culture

Corporate culture and workplace ethics are essential to this age group. Millennials prefer to work in reliable, diverse organizations with great reputations. They thrive on social interaction and a robust internal culture.

  • Provide modern benefits

High payment rates and interesting perks are not secondary points for Y-employees. They are not fond of strict rules and working 9-to-5 “banker’s” hours. This generation is drawn to flexible schedules, WFM opportunities, gym memberships, free meals, healthcare insurance, on-site daycare, as well as flexible PTO and monetary gifts.

  • Don’t let them grow bored

We hear about workspace improvements and new bonuses and perks all the time, but Millennials also need a purpose. If you really want your Y-employees to achieve and thrive, let them improve their skills. Don’t limit yourself to a set of tasks – instead, set new challenges, give them unique work experiences, making sure to note why it matters to the pharma company and how their success will impact the big picture.

Recruitment strategy for Generation Z

Generation Z prefers to “google” rather than memorize – they are the most progressive, knowledgeable, and versatile personalities. Members of this generation have created so many new professions over the past 20 years, the essence of which can hardly be understood by representatives of older age groups: bloggers, Tik-Tokers, SMM managers, story managers, unique programming language developers, personal growth coaches and many others.

Also known as Centennials, many of them are fluent in 2–3 languages. They are horrified by the phrase, "I do not know a foreign language and do not think that I may ever need it." Z-ers believe that discrimination should be taboo in both the working environment and media. They are quite optimistic and very concerned about their personal ambitions.

How to attract and retain Generation Z

  • Give them freedom

Generation Z is looking for more freedom to create and inspire. It is more interested in creating its own unique content and will work for startups that give them the opportunity to innovate. Moreover, offering classical 9-to-5 terms will likely scare away prospective Z-employees. They just can’t understand the need to spend the whole day in the office when there is an opportunity to work remotely and always stay in touch.

  • Social media is a key

According to a Goldman Sachs report, Generation Z spends about 10 hours online each day and loves to stay connected. They need to feel connected not only with their friends and colleagues but also with the rest of the world. Companies that hope to attract the best talent from Gen-Z must find a way to use social networks for this purpose while improving the pharma company website, online branding, and social media activity.

  • Let them change the world

Employees in Generation Z tend to show a strong interest in climate change, global humanitarian problems, and charity and are more likely to agree to work in companies that share the ideas of caring for nature and people in need. Unlike millennials, they strive to reduce the consumption process and create hundreds of projects every day that are beneficial and have a social mission. Pharma employers can use this hint to kill two birds with one stone: strengthen company reputation and attract zoomers.

There's no one-size-fits-all approach to recruiting across generations. A strategy that resonates with one age group might not strike the same chord with another. It's a delicate balancing act, understanding and catering to the unique values, needs, and work styles of each generation.

But here's the good news: you don't have to navigate these waters alone.

At the Anthony Michael Group (AMG), we specialize in helping pharmaceutical industry leaders like you fine-tune recruitment strategies to help identify and hire the perfect fit, no matter what generation they're from. Reach out to our team today, and together, let's start cultivating your garden of generational diversity!

Posted by Mitch Robbins

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