Holiday shopping is in full swing, and even if you have started staffing your retail stores early this year, you’ve inevitably got gaps to fill in your seasonal ranks. You’re interviewing people from all different backgrounds, and you can’t help but see evidence of age-based stereotypes right in front of your eyes.
Baby boomers doseem to be more out of touch with technology. Gen Xers canbe a bit pushy. And those Millennials, it sure is tough to keep them engaged.
Generational stereotypes like this are ingrained in our culture. We might hear these different age groups described as stubborn, skeptical, and smug, respectively. Or we might hear variations with a more positive spin, like steadfast, self-reliant, and astute.
No matter what words are used, and no matter what you believe about people based on when they were born, the ultimate question in the hiring world is this: Do generational differences really make a difference in the quality of my workforce?
According to our recent research at Assess Systems and Chequed.com, the answer is no. After analyzing work-related traits of more than 500,000 job candidates across generations, we found that top performers don’t necessarily fall within a particular age group. In other words, it’s an individual’s personality and behavior—not their age—that’s most important for job success.
So as you’re staffing up this holiday season, you don’t need to avoid hiring Millennials, for example, because you worry they’ll pay more attention to their phones than your customers. While Millennials are known as the tech-savvy generation, the tendency to withdraw from customers has less to do with age and more to do with poor job-fit. Any person from any generation might exhibit this behavior if they’re not strongly social and customer focused.
In addition to finding that age is not a significant predictor of success, we identified attributes that do predict success, like sociability and friendliness. Other key predictors for success in retail include frustration tolerance, drive and energy, multi-tasking, persuasiveness, pride in work, and teamwork.
In light of these findings, it’s clear that relying on generational stereotypes to inform your hiring decisions, even unintentionally, can keep you from building a top-notch workforce. While you might recognize similarities among people from common backgrounds, or you might notice differences between age groups as new generations enter workforce, it’s important to remember that you’re not hiring a norm group or a trend line. You’re hiring an individual with skills and competencies that are more strongly influenced by their unique experience and personality than by their birth year.
When you focus on key predictors of success instead of age, you’ll cut through the bias and find the candidates who are best fit for your retail stores—and your customers will enjoy an exceptional shopping experience this season.