Within today’s multi-generational workforce, research tends to predominantly focus on the impact the millennial generation is having on the workplace. As more and more millennials come of working age, organizations are trying to figure out what forces drive the newest members of the workforce. As a result, the magnitude of the impact that older generations (such as the Baby Boomers) are having on the current workplace might be unexpectedly ignored by businesses. However, a recent article by Scott A. Scanlon, “In a Three Generational Workforce, Baby Boomers Provide the Backbone”, shows that the Baby Boomer generation not only meaningfully impacts the modern workplace, but that they also shouldn’t be ignored.
The article discusses the results of a newly released survey by the Futurestep division of Korn Ferry in which global executives were asked about the role Baby Boomers played in their organizations. The results produced some interesting insights about the impact Boomers still play in the modern workforce. Overall, executives reported that Baby Boomers (who are individuals born between the years of 1946 and 1964) are some of the most motivated, passionate, and reliable workers available in the modern workforce.
As compared to other generations, Baby Boomers were reported as more willing to work longer hours, required less feedback, and were considered the 2nd most productive generation after Generation X. These results are a testament to the hard work and dedication that the Baby Boomer generation still displays many years after initially entering the workforce. Additionally, executives thought Baby Boomers were more ambitious than other generations; more than half of the respondents (54%) reported that the best way to retain Boomer talent was to give them the opportunity to make an impact on the business. Comparably, only 28% of respondents felt that Millennials’ motivation was to make an impact at work. In effect, Baby Boomers are still an important and necessary business driver as the Millennial generation continues to mature in the workplace.
Another interesting finding was that half of the responding executives admitted that Baby Boomers’ experience and expertise were the main reasons for bringing them into their businesses. These results suggest that employers are still enthusiastic to hire Baby Boomers in order to take advantage of the wealth of experience and expertise they possess. Although the Boomer generation is beginning to age out of the workforce, the responding executives think that they will still be available for work over the coming years. Due to the Great Recession affecting the Boomers’ retirement plans, a large majority of the executives who responded (81%) thought that the Boomers will retire at least five years later than they had planned. However, these potential financial challenges may not be the reason Boomers are staying in the workforce; their motivation, passion and genuine enjoyment for their work may be the reason they persist.
Although the survey results point towards the Baby Boomer generation as one of, if not the most, impactful generations in the workforce now, employers need to be certain that they are attracting, developing, and retaining talent across all of the generations. Baby Boomers must be willing to work with other generations, and vice versa, in order to drive business. According to the Futurestep survey, almost all of the executives (89%) think that Boomers are at least somewhat accepting of younger generations in the workplace. However, additional research has shown that Millennials may have a difficult time when managing older generations. The author cites a separate survey by Future Workplace and career network Beyond whose results show that over one third of Millennial respondents found it difficult to manage older generations. This is problematic in that Millennials should be looking at the older generations as sources of experience and expertise, not as sources of frustration. In order for a new generation of leaders and mangers to develop, Millennials will have to come to respect and support the needs and careers of older generations, such as the Baby Boomers.
Whether or not the Baby Boomer generation chooses to stay in the workforce over the coming years, businesses should appreciate their impact on the workplace in the present. When Baby Boomers’ many years of experience and expertise are combined with their dedication, motivation, and passion for their work, the impact that they have on the modern workplace is hard to ignore.