The Workplace Shift Part 1: Baby Boomers Prepare to Pass the Baton

“Who cares that we have always done it that way!”

“He does not respect my experience”

“I can’t believe she wore that to work!”

“What do you mean I can’t work from home?!?”

Combining different generational mindsets into one workplace can be difficult. Generational diversity brings an array of experiences and perspectives to the office –  different backgrounds have an impact on the way generations respond to leadership and work with one another.

Conflict is a reality.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conducted a survey and asked “To what extent is intergenerational conflict an issue in your workplace?” 72% of respondents selected “to a large degree. The results of the survey revealed a correlation between low employee engagement and generational diversity if the situation is not properly managed.

The engagement and effectiveness of any team depends on the level of understanding, respect for and acceptance between its members. Crossing generational roads is not always easy. In fact, it is no surprise that today’s workplace is more challenging than ever before when you consider all the shifting that is taking place.

  • We have a multi-generational workforce
  • The Baby Boomers are preparing to pass the leadership baton
  • Generation X is preparing to take the leadership baton
  • The Baby Boomers and Generation X are worried about Generation Y taking the leadership baton

We all have our own agendas.

What will happen when the Baby Boomer executives in your company are ready to pass the leadership baton—trading in their suits and the big corner office for a pair of shorts, a T-shirt, and a one-way ticket to the Caribbean?

According to a 2009 Pew Research Survey:

On Jan. 1, 2011, the oldest members of the Baby Boom generation celebrated their 65th birthday. On that day, today, and for every day for the next 19 years, 10,000 baby boomers will reach age 65. Considering the fact that 26% of the U.S. Population is Baby Boomers, the composition of the workplace and the country will change dramatically.

The Remarkable Baby Boomer Era

From its beginning, the influence of the Baby Boom Era has been remarkable. According to demographic research, approximately 76 million American children were born between 1946 and 1964, an average of four million births per year for 19 years.

In the August 9, 1948, edition of Newsweek, Demographer P.K. Whelpton shared the following forecast:

“When the number of persons is rising rapidly it is necessary to prepare for the increase. Houses and apartments must be built; streets must be paved; power, light, water, and sewer systems must be extended; existing factories, stores and other business structures must be enlarged or new ones erected; and much machinery must be manufactured.”

And that’s exactly what happened. The metropolitan areas of the United States exploded in growth and it led to huge suburban developments. Baby Boomers have certainly left their mark in many areas. They are still a force to be reckoned with!

Redefining the Workplace Before They Leave

As the Baby Boomer generation approaches their retirement years, companies are starting to change the way they define work. While many Boomers will choose to retire, others may work through some of their retirement years, but that doesn’t mean they want to continue working in the way they have been for the last four decades.

Two surveys by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) provide evidence that flexible work schedules are attractive to older workers.

The Baby Boomer generation is transforming the workplace as they pave a path that will meet their needs AND the next generation of leaders. The desire for a more flexible work schedule by this generation will alter the workplace mindset and can help employers attract the scarcer pool of younger workers while also encouraging older workers to continue to work through phased retirement.

The words telecommuting, job sharing and flex scheduling can be partially attributed to the Baby Boomer influence.

The Transfer of Knowledge

How can companies replace the knowledge, experience and seasoned management of this powerful generation when they do retire? Cross Generational Teamwork. Mixing generations results in a diversity of perspectives and views. When these views are channeled it can lead to the best solutions, and a highly engaged team.

Three ways to transfer knowledge:

1. Share Insight

Diverse groups bring out greater insight. With years of experience behind them, the Baby Boomers can draw from their history and lessons learned and share that with younger generations. Generation X and Y can provide insight to the fast moving current day and together they can work on issues that impact a wide range of customer issues.

2. Share Knowledge

Mentoring is one way to share knowledge in an informal setting. It allows both individuals to draw from the others’ experience and wisdom.

3. Seek to Understand

When different generations begin to understand one another and work together the generational barriers begin to crumble. This will lead to more sharing of information and open conversations–resulting in a transfer of knowledge from one generation to another.

The Baby Boomers in your workplace can offer so much. Though times have changed along with the technology, being in the same profession for many years advanced them and their knowledge along with the progress. Therefore, allowing them the opportunity to pass on their experience to the younger generation that is now slowly transitioning into the workplace would be the logical thing that should happen.

What are you doing to prepare for this monumental shift in the workplace? Tell us about it!

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