March 7, 2019
By Jacki Hart CLM
Prosperity Partners Program Manager

Jacki HartI'm writing this month under the assumption your company has an available position or two (or even five or more). I’m also going to assume you don’t have a stack of perfect resumes or receive many requests each day from candidates willing to do anything to work for your company (like we enjoyed back in the 90s). Unless qualified applicants are beating down your door, we need to look at who your message is (or isn’t) appealing to, and why.

There are many factors contributing to the challenges our profession is facing when it comes to recruiting new talent. Some factors we have little control over, like competitive industries that pay a bit better, or jobs that are entrenched in technology, or are sexier than a career that includes getting dirty and sweaty for a good, honest paycheque. Don’t get me wrong! I thoroughly enjoyed my 35 years of hard work with steel-toed boots on! For the factors we can control, one of the main things I see over and over again throughout our profession is the disconnected message between who you’re trying to attract, and how you’re communicating who you’re looking for.

Now, more than ever, we are navigating a multi-generational workforce. Many companies span five generations: Founders, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials (aka Generation Y, or as I call them, ‘gen WHY’), and now Generation Z. The impact on businesses to shift how and what they communicate is fast-paced and significant. Attracting digital natives of Gen Z (under 22 years old) is an entirely different game than attracting Baby Boomers. The language, message and media used to engage these two types of applicants is polar opposite. Boomers (age 57-70) will reluctantly search online to find your job postings, have a polished resume, expect the traditional interview process and reference checks, and WILL show up for an interview on time and well-dressed. Hiring Gen Z is a whole different ball game.

Gen Z and the younger Millennials (under age 30) click to a different tune entirely. It’s neither right, nor wrong, good, nor bad. It is what it is. So, in what ways have you changed your messaging to attract a generation who put different emphasis on what they value in employment? I will avoid a discussion about parenting and how they were raised, and hone in on what’s important to them: contributing to the goals of the team, being valued, being praised, given feedback, feeling included, engaged in learning and personal growth, wellness balanced with work — to just name the top ones.

What this shift in perception of value in employment means to employers, is that you must address this wish list up front and right from the start.

Did you know the under 30 applicants will go straight to your Facebook and Instagram pages BEFORE your website? They’ll look first at how many followers and likes your company has. If there isn’t an interesting and engaging company story there, especially on video, you’re toast. They might apply, and will only show up as a last resort. They will keep looking for something better.

So many in our profession are still working hard on website edits and updates, only to ignore their social media presence. Think twice about that. The reality is that these two generations won’t likely find you via a Google search of “landscapers near me,” and will comb through your website only to learn about you and opportunities you may have. Your website is a validator to most who visit, whether prospective employees, clients, suppliers or lenders. It’s not your best recruiting tool.

Another thing to consider is how social media has changed the way Gen Z think. They’ve grown up with a smartphone in their hand and a social media presence that’s really important to them. They’re likely to ask themselves, “What does it say about me if I work for this company?” Yep, it’s just that important to them.

As for showing up for interviews, the reality is they likely won’t unless you break the ice first. We had a great discussion about this during the LO London Chapter Peer To Peer session in February. Millennials and Gen Z are nervous and anxious. Most don’t feel comfortable talking one-on-one with a stranger, let alone face-to-face in your office while you read and check off a list of difficult questions across from them. Try to break the ice on Facebook messenger first, or by text. You’re hiring a different generation with different life skills. It is what it is.

I encourage you to sit back and take a look at your online presence and the message you’re conveying in your recruiting program. Can applicants see an engaged, youthful team working together? Can they get a sense of community? Can they quickly learn there’s something in it for them other than a pay cheque? Is there a visual story of work balance and wellness, mutual respect and appreciation for the team? If your job ads talk about what YOU need (i.e. willing to work long hours, high level of physical fitness, own car, etc.) then you’re out of date. If your job ads talk about what you provide and what’s in it for your employees (balance, personal growth, contributing to the team and community), then you’re likely going to get better results.

I’m hopeful you’ll be able to improve your recruiting results this year to connect with right-fit people for your team this year more than ever.
Jacki Hart may be reached at