Should Your Small Business Hire Millennials or Baby Boomers?

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Small Business Hire Millennials Baby Boomers?

By 2025, millennials will make up 75% of the workforce. And even though 58% of people classify themselves as entrepreneurs, many will still need to work for an employer.

And, of course, millennials can be a great asset to small businesses.

But on the flip side, baby boomers are retiring later, and we have more workers over 55 in the workforce now than at any time in history.

So when it comes to hiring for your small business, you have a lot of options. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of hiring millennials vs. more mature workers? Here’s a quick look at some of the things that make candidates from each generation a great hire, and some of the potential downsides.

The Case For Hiring Millennials

Millennials are tech savvy: They’re terrifyingly efficient when it comes to using brand-new technology, utilizing tools you may not even know existed to do research and process information faster.

The downside: They’re incredibly dependent on technology. So if the Internet goes down or Google can’t find what they’re looking for, they may have a more difficult time finding a workaround.

It’s not all about money for millennials: In a recent survey done by MTV, half of millennials said they’d rather have no job than a job they hate, and 80% said their main objective in a job was one that “valued my creativity.” This is great for small businesses that need creative employees, but don’t have the budget to offer the highest salaries.

The downside: If they don’t like what’s going on, millennials may just leave. There’s not the same sense of loyalty as with previous generations and if they feel like the job isn’t for them, the paycheck won’t be enough to keep them around.

Millennials crave constant recognition: In a study from UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School and the YEC, 80% of millennials stated they want instant feedback from their managers, and praise for jobs well done. This means if something isn’t working with them, you can fix it more quickly, and motivate them more readily.

The downside: Millennials may not take criticism very well. They are a generation of people who got “hardest tryer” awards at Summer Camp. And even though they may say that they may want “constant feedback”, they may actually be seeking “constant praise.”

Millennials are adaptable: Because they grew up in an era where technology changed faster than the members of Menudo, their brains are wired to adapt to new systems and technologies quickly. Typically, they are very familiar with mobile and digital technology.

The downside: They may abandon methods you’ve put in place that work best for your business for something they deem “more efficient.” While these efficient new methods are usually welcome, they still may cause internal communication issues if they chose to do things differently than your other employees.

Millennials value diversity: Studies show that millennial managers are more apt to put together teams regardless of race, sexual orientation or gender. This helps ensure a smooth transition for new hires while getting more ideas out there and developing better solutions.

The downside: None, really, unless you have employees who don’t work well with others.

Millennials are inherently tied to social media: If they like what your business is doing, you can bet it’ll be shared with all 8,000 of their Facebook friends, and Twitter and Instagram followers. So your millennial employees may become your best marketers and biggest brand advocates.

The downside: They may also post things you DON’T want to see from your employees on social media. So if your business is employee-image driven, late-night photos of tequila shots and keg stands might not represent your business the way you want.

Millennials cost less to employ: Because they’re younger, newer, and have less financial responsibilities.

The downside: Like everything in life, you get what you pay for.

Gen Y In the Workplace Via MBA@UNC
Via MBA@UNC:Online Business Degree & The YEC

The Case For Hiring Baby Boomers

Baby boomers don’t job hop as much: Workers from the boomer generation are typically much more loyal to their employers than younger workers. So if you hire a boomer, they probably won’t start looking for something better by week 6.

The downside: Baby boomers may stay in a job they don’t like and doesn’t motivate them, which inherently means the quality of the work and overall morale goes down.

Baby boomers value structure: Unlike millennials, more mature workers prefer scheduled reviews where they get structured feedback. They also prefer strict working hours and freedom when not on the job.

The downside: Good luck trying to contact them after they leave the office. For boomers, work is for work, home is for home.

Baby boomers can operate without the Internet: Since at some point in their career they actually had to do stuff like go to a library to do research or look up a phone number in the phone book, they can still get the job done if technology fails.

The downside: They may rely too heavily on older ways of doing things, and may not be as efficient.

Baby boomers are better writers: In a recent survey of hiring managers, 46% said millennials lacked good writing skills, something boomers were forced to develop and typically do better.

The downside: None, really, unless your business is heavily dependent on text slang.

Baby boomers have stronger networks: While they may not have as many Twitter followers, boomers been around longer and may know more people in real life. So they may give your business a stronger reach.

The downside: They may also have ties and obligations to people in those networks that keep your business from exploring other options. For instance, if your mature employee knows an accountant he’s worked with for years, he may insist you use him instead of a younger one who may come cheaper.

Baby boomers have a lot more experience: And they’ve (hopefully) learned from a lot of the mistakes that younger employees haven’t even had a chance to make yet. As an employer, that means less time spent on corrections and more time spent on productivity.

The downside: Once again, you get what you pay for. So this experience usually comes with a higher price tag.

There are always pros and cons to difficult decisions such as hiring employees for your small business. Of course, you should keep an open mind since many of these generalizations won’t apply to every millennial or baby boomer. Also, striking a balance of younger and older employees will provide your business with the best of both worlds: a mix of fresh ideas and experience. Aim to establish collaborative mentoring programs that will empower your seasoned employees and embrace tomorrow's leaders. By better understanding some of the common characteristics of millennials and baby boomers, it may help you hire employees that are a great fit for your business.


Matt Meltzer

Matt Meltzer is a professor of business communication at the University of Miami. He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and holds a bachelors degree in business administration from UM, as well as a Masters of Mass Communication from the University of Florida.

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