We currently have 3 generations in the workplace: Boomers, GenXers and Millennials. A generation is a group of people born in the same period and sharing the same beliefs and attitudes. As an employer, chances are you may have all 3 generations in your company.
Let’s start a series to look at the traits of each of these workers. The goal is to better understand them. We’ll do our best to avoid stereotypes.
Boomers were born between 1946 and 1961
Depending on when you were born, you might talking about yourself, your parents or your grandparents. Boomers are the product of post-war efforts to absorb soldiers returning from the battlefields. Many governments passed various bills to assist soldiers with their reintegration to civil life. It resulted in a boom in childbirths, hence the term “baby boomers”.
The 1950’s were also the beginning of an era of unprecedented economic growth and prosperity. More and more women started to work, instead of being stay-at-home moms. Television also became a permanent fixture of many households.
The 1960’s brought a lot of social changes, from Civil Rights to rebelling against the establishment. This represents the beginning of major changes in society, but also in beliefs and attitudes.
Most boomers are pretty confident and usually have no problems expressing their opinions. They grew-up at a time when challenging the status-quo was the norm. As a result, boomers will support change if they see a benefit to it.
Boomers also had access to way more resources than previous generations. They are hard-working and tend to define themselves by their career. They usually have strong ethics.
Boomers usually have no problems putting-in the required time to get the job done. They are committed, loyal and resourceful. It is not uncommon for boomers to work for the same employers for decades. They are primarily motivated by financial perks: salary, bonuses, pension plans, as these used to be the norm. As a result, Boomers are the most affluent generation of workers.
They prefer face-to-face interactions and a classic hierarchy. They believe in “rankism”. It may be more difficult for them to adapt to a more flexible environment. It may also take them more time to learn new technologies.
A few tips if you work with a Boomer
- Respect and value their experience: believe or not, most Boomers don’t mind working for a younger manager. However, more than other workers, they deeply resent it when a younger manager -or co-worker- assumes that a Boomer has nothing of value to contribute. Their experience has real value. That’s especially true when it comes to dealing with people because, while technology changes, people remain very much the same. Since Boomers didn’t grow-up with modern technology, dealing with people is what they actually had to learn and do.
- Be focused and have a coherent process when communicating. Do it face to face, as much as possible.
- Don’t be too arrogant, particularly when it comes to technologies. Don’t be too arrogant in general too.
Boomers still have a lot to contribute to the workforce. Although most of them are set to retire within the next 5 years, there are definite benefits to hiring and working with Boomers. They can be great mentors and actually bridge gaps…if you let them.
Stay tuned for part 2 of our series on generation gap: Gen-X at work.