They're of the older age groups in the workforce - so what's their deal?
The workforce of today is more culturally, gender and age diverse than ever before. With many businesses now employing around four generations of workers, it's important to cater to many expectations.
Fresh faced Millennials and Gen-Z-ers are working alongside Gen X and soon-to-retire Baby Boomers. By understanding what engages your employees, you hold the key to providing a working environment that considers and supports all these different demographics.
Plenty of focus has been put on younger generations over recent years, but what about the older contingents of the workplace? What makes them tick? Understand their youth, their working lives, and how to motivate and communicate with them.
Baby Boomers: 1946 – 1964
Born in the aftermath of the Second World War, this generation was the first to reject many traditional values of previous generations. Birth rates increased significantly in the 40s and, as the country settled down into a calmer period, many people were able to put their lives back together.
Though they probably had parents who fought in the war, as Baby Boomers reached adulthood they wanted peace and equality. As youths during the Woodstock era, they were surrounded by demonstrations for change.
The birth of the teenager played a key role in their upbringing, with new music and fashion styles aimed specifically at the youth of the 1960s. The young Baby Boomers were the first generation to have a disposable income, and were able to afford a more lavish lifestyle than generations before.
The Changing Workplace
In the workplace, Baby Boomers were willing to work hard and struggle to achieve what they wanted. Office culture was vastly different from today. Women were still predominantly housewives, and those who were in the workplace were in nursing, teaching and secretary roles. Bosses were still "Sir", and an office hierarchy was followed to the letter. People aspired to secure the corner office with the large window, and considered their working life a success if they ended their career with the presentation of a clock for years of service. Basically just Mad Men.
Due to this, Baby Boomers have experienced the biggest changes in office environments and culture - the office of today has changed so much in 50 years that it's nearly unrecognisable. The office of today is typically a much more relaxed atmosphere, not just in terms of dress sense - though it’s unusual to see men arriving to work in a full suit, tie and hat these days. The overall restructure of workplace authority and environment is clear to see. This year, even the youngest baby boomers have now entered their 50s and, although they may not have already retired, they'll certainly be starting to hit the twilight of their career.
Many Baby Boomers have had to adapt to the rapid introduction of technology into the workplace, and then filtering into everyday life. With the dawn of desktop computers and the phasing out of typing pools, to the beginning of internal emails in the 1980s and the smart phones of the late 2000s, Baby Boomers have been bombarded with ever-evolving technology. The office is a dramatically different place to the one they first entered.
Probably in a position of authority at work, Baby Boomers have been taught to give respect to those above them and expect it from those beneath them, and desire recognition for the time put in during their youth. Baby Boomers are more likely to have been with their employer for a long period of time, unlike their younger contemporaries, some of whom will have had as many as 10 employers by the time they're 30.
Motivation and Communication
The right type of communication is vital for every generation, particularly Baby Boomers, who are used to a much more formal style of language than later generations. While some may use social media personally, not all of this generation is comfortable with technology. However, open and honest communication through direct mail, face-to-face meetings and PowerPoint presentations is likely to be successful. Be careful that you don’t use slang or overly casual language with Baby Boomers, as this unfamiliar turn of phrase is likely to make them tune out your message.
In terms of motivation, most Baby Boomers are likely to be financially well off, and enjoying the rewards of their earlier career. Many companies make the mistake of sending the same benefits email to all their employees, resulting in some cases in offering wildly inappropriate or even insulting rewards. Baby Boomers are less likely to have need for a childcare voucher, and although there are a few silver surfers out there, an extreme experience such as zorbing or driving a supercar is less likely to appeal.
Offering benefits such as pensions, additional holiday, travel vouchers and health benefits, as well as other opportunities to ease the stresses of work life will go down well with Baby Boomers. You might also consider offering development and learning classes - for example, tutoring in new software on company computers, or even a beginner’s guide to social media. People of every generation appreciate when employers try to make the work experience as comfortable as possible.
Another thing to consider is that your Baby Boomers may have significant work anniversaries approaching. Big milestones such as 20, 30 or even 50 years service deserve to be celebrated. When an employer recognises this, it not only thanks the individual for their dedication, loyalty and continued contribution - but if the presentation is public, it also has the added benefit of inspiring younger workers within the company.
A Valuable Asset
Most Baby Boomers are more than willing to offer their input and advice across various aspects of the business. They are likely to have an unbeatable knowledge of the ins and outs of the company, and are often some of the most effective mentors. Placing a Millennial with a Baby Boomer means they may learn quicker than being left to their own devices.
The important thing to remember is that although Baby Boomers may be thinking about retirement, they're still integral to the success of your company. Their experience and knowledge is invaluable, and you should always strive to respect their contribution!