Organizations' future success is facilitated by their ability to generate interest in joining among potential organizational members. As current members retire, turnover, and change positions within the organization, they create vacancies that must be filled with new talent. Social influence, qualification factors, and historic events impact organizational recruitment. Prior research has shown that youth career choices, such as entering military service , are influenced by what they think their friends and family will think; the environment (e.g., unemployment, tuition costs); and whether they can qualify for service. When applicant pools are small or lack qualifications, recruiting becomes a focus. In contrast, selection processes are emphasized when applicant pools are more robust. Although often it seems to be feast or famine and some specialized field regularly face shortages, one fact remains: recruiting is bound to be a constant concern of organizations as they maintain a workforce over time. Understanding trends in the workforce and communicating with recent generations or cohorts may be enhanced by attending to the factors driving between-cohort differences.
At Fors Marsh Group, we've studied some of the most complex recruiting environments and have come to recognize the impact of the trends noted above on the pool of available applicants. In our work studying the Military recruiting environment, it's especially salient given the military organization's mission, the specificity of its qualification requirements, and its scale. The active duty Army alone signed over 69,000 new soldiers in 2013 (1). Since 2002, we've researched the Military environment to help the services plan for inevitable fluctuations that result in recruiting shortfalls and over ages at different points in time.
In my upcoming paper, The Effects of Workforce Trends and Changes on Organizational Recruiting: A Practical Perspective that will be published in Industrial Organizational Psychology this fall, I discuss the importance of thinking about cohorts when designing recruiting efforts. A generation is a cohort of people born around the same time and living during about the same period in history. Having experienced similar historic events during a similar life stage, people entering the workforce at a given time are likely to have common traits, tendencies, and preferences. Whether group similarity is attributed to generations with catchy labels (e.g., the Silent Generation, Gen Me, Gen X) or some combination of age, history, and cohort effects, the practical impact is what matters. Once real cohort differences, not stereotypes, are understood, organizations can set about addressing these differences in the design of their organizational strategies.
We understand the importance of considering workforce trends when designing recruitment and other outreach efforts, and the importance of applying psychological theories to create understanding rather than relying on generalizations and anecdotal accounts. Timely action on organizational recruitment is key to ensuring successful recruiting. If you find yourself struggling to attract, engage, and retain the most qualified candidates for your needs, we suggest enlisting assistance to better target your approach and messaging.
- U.S. Army Recruiting Command Goals (http://www.usarec.army.mil/hq/apa/goals.htm)