Who is a Boomer? Generational Hiring for the Optimal Customer Experience, Part 2

My colleague, Brent Holland, continues our series on "Generational Hiring for the Optimal Customer Experience".  The second installment considers two important questions:  (1) how to define generational groups and (2) whether contact centers rely on generational groups to guide recruitment.

How does FurstPerson define generational groups for this research?

When we began studying the impact of generational classifications, one of the first things we noticed was that many people disagree on who is a member of the Baby Boomer, Gen X or Gen Y generations.  Some people, for example, define Baby Boomers  as those born from the mid 1940’s to the mid 1960’s, while others define it from the early 1940’s to the early 1960’s.  Although the definitions overlap, the differences could have marked impact on research and any subsequent conclusions.  For our research, we defined the generational groups in the following manner:

Generational Hiring Groups

This generational model takes into consideration the array of definitions that have been proposed over the years and synthesizes them into a clear framework that guided FurstPerson’s generational research.

Do contact centers, whether intentional or not, use generational classifications to help guide recruitment practices?

About five years ago I made a life-changing decision – I decided to take on the challenge of building a global selection and assessment practice in one of the largest outsourcers in the world.  As a consultant, my job was to learn about everyone else’s job and then combine that knowledge with my area of expertise to help companies hire and place talent in ways that would drive top and bottom line performance.  Jumping into the outsourcing industry, however, was a lot like base jumping off the New River Gorge Bridge near Fayetteville, West Virginia … it looks great when others do it, but when you’re standing on the edge of a 876 foot drop into one of the top whitewater rivers in the North America, all you’re thinking is “why in the world am I doing this?!?! … @#$%”.

Once I was over the initial shock, I gained a deeper respect and appreciation for the challenges of hiring talented people who would stick through the good times and bad.  I learned a lot by immersing myself in the day-to-day operations of call centers throughout North America – listening to calls, talking to agents, and interviewing management.  A theme that frequently came up in my discussions with recruiters and managers (one which I continue to hear today) was the notion that the ideal call center agent was between the ages of 27 and 45.  When I asked why recruiters and managers held this view, the answer was almost always that older workers perform better and stay longer because they are more mature, stable, and reliable.  I filed this perspective away for the time being, but planned to revisit the topic once I could empirically test whether age was related to performance and retention.

There are approximately 144,000,000 people in the U.S. workforce today.  Well over half of these workers are members of the Baby Boomer or Gen X groups – in fact, 48% (or 69,120,000) are 40 years of age or older.  The good news is that there are a lot of Gen X and Baby Boomers in the workforce today, giving recruiters and contact center leadership the opportunity to select older workers at a higher rate.  The bad news is that there’s not much empirical research that suggests older workers perform better and stay longer than their younger associates.

Based on my experience, I believe that a lot of contact centers prefer to hire older, more mature workers when given the chance.  Whether this preference is generating the expected outcomes (better performance and retention) remains to be seen.

In my next post, I will share the results of FurstPerson’s research evaluating retention across different generational groups.

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