Win the talent game.

By Gretchen Vaught March 15, 2024 Employee Communication Organizational Culture

A hot topic in human resources circles is how to attract and retain top-tier talent. Or more specifically, what policies and incentives are imperative to win the favor of high-performing recruits? The answer is confounding because each generation of workers is said to want different things—so much so that the conflict between them has become known as the workforce “generation gap.” It was hilariously portrayed in this recent advertisement.


A company is likely to be more successful at retaining good employees when it has a clearly defined culture, versus catering to the perceived values of a percentage of its workforce. For example, instead of discussing whether you need a foosball table in the break room to engage millennials, maybe you should ask a different question. Is the table a natural fit in our traditional urban law office, relaxed skateboard manufacturing warehouse or other fill-in-the-blank work environment? What does it say about our company’s values?

The foosball table consideration might even be the wrong focus altogether. If an employer doesn’t prioritize employees’ wellbeing and development over workplace fads, their investment probably won’t matter to anyone in their workforce, regardless of generational affiliations.

The point is that workers from all generations share more attributes than they disagree on, a fact highlighted by Leah Georges in her humorous yet convincing TED Talk. All employees want to be valued and competitively compensated. They need interesting work in a positive work environment. Having a boss who is responsive and even-handed is more important than whether they communicate by phone, text or web-chat.


Are arguments about generational differences really helpful? That’s debatable, but I’m convinced that leaders who instead build a reputation for sharing an inspiring corporate vision, celebrating their workers’ creativity and rewarding good results will attract the best and brightest applicants as assuredly as a white shirt attracts barbecue stains.