Perennials: the best thing to happen to your organisation?

Employees are often boxed into simplistic generational titles like Gen Z, millennials or baby boomers – but there’s one type of worker who isn’t defined by their age…

Meet the perennial, a curious, motivated, aspirational and highly employable individual who could be the key to your organisation’s success. Here’s why you should bring them into the fold.

Who are the perennials?

Perennials were originally referred to as a subset of baby boomers – around 55 years and up – who didn’t fit into that generational mould. But more recently it’s grown to encompass an entirely different group of people.

Gina Pell, co-founder of The What, coined the term. According to Pell, perennials are people of all ages who go beyond stereotypes and focus on making connections with each other and the world around them. They’re curious, globally minded risk-takers who push beyond boundaries.

It’s a smarter way of categorising employees in contrast to the generic generational titles, especially because recent research into the modern workforce concludes that generational differences are less relevant than originally thought.

Perennial values and motivations

Defining any work group without referring to their age might seem challenging, but there are a number of obvious traits that reveal a perennial in your team:

  • Motivated
    Perennials rarely need a manager to encourage them to perform their duties. Instead, they are self-starters who find fulfillment in their ability to expand their knowledge.
  • Aspirational
    Rather than working towards their retirement, perennials work towards career goals – their success is defined by what they achieve in their role.
  • Curious
    Organisations want employees who seek to better themselves. Such curiosity is what makes perennials so employable.
  • Collaborative
    Perennials don’t see generational classes – instead, they seek to make connections with people based on their skillset and ability to collaborate.
  • Willingness to learn
    Always looking to broaden their skill sets, perennials need to be challenged and seek out new opportunities if their current career path fails to provide them.

Perennial hiring challenges

Perennials seem like the ultimate employee – a perfect hire that can shape themselves around your established team. But bringing a perennial into your ranks, or promoting them to a position with more duties, can be challenging.

Arguably the biggest of these is also one of the perennial’s greatest strengths: their unquenchable thirst to better themselves. This means they must be constantly engaged. They want their work to challenge them – and, subsequently, reward them – and if their needs are not met then they will seek new opportunities elsewhere.

For the most part, perennials are also very aware of the value they can bring to a company. Because of this, they may hold a better bargaining position than some of their co-workers. Since they know they are highly employable and may even have other businesses regularly headhunting them, they may expect more freedoms – whether that’s the freedom to be more autonomous, or the freedom to work more flexibly.

A positive for employers, due to the effects of COVID-19 on the traditional office environment, hybrid workplaces are likely to become the norm for the foreseeable future.

How can perennials add value to your organisation?

Depending on the industry, leadership status and role they’re in, perennials can bring myriad benefits to an organisation. However, there are two key positives that will excite hiring managers when they recognise a perennial in their candidate pool:

  • Teamwork
    Gina Pell said it best when she described perennials as making connections with each other and the world around them. These workers thrive on collaboration and are able to integrate seamlessly with all types of teams. Not only are projects completed faster and of a higher standard, but overall it can encourage a greater sense of camaraderie within your organisation.
  • Productivity
    Motivated by their desire to succeed, perennials can have a hugely positive impact on your entire organisation simply due to their natural productivity. Curiosity drives their interest in work, while their aspirations are a powerful motivator for their co-workers.

Top tips to better engage perennials

Such motivated individuals require a high level of engagement from their work environment, and managers can ensure this by meeting perennials’ unique needs.

For example, a perennial may thrive on collaboration, but they are also just as content to manage themselves. Trust in their autonomy is therefore essential. Similarly, leaders who support a perennial’s desire to work more flexibly – whether that’s the hours they keep or where they choose to work from – can result in major benefits for the organisation as a whole.

So – rather than focusing on the ‘younger generation’ to bolster your team, seek out perennials for the inherent value they bring – no matter their age.

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