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Since 2010 when the baby boomer generation began retiring in record numbers the workforce changed and continues to change as more and more competent workers redefine “work.”
This can be good news to employers who will now have a pool of available workers (recently retired but still wanting work) and for whom money is no longer THE most important factor in choosing a job. Boomers, many of whom have left long term positions early or are eligible to leave, should be looked at differently. Do you want to retain baby boomers eligible for retirement or do you want to consider them for new hires? Well, maybe. The sheer numbers of these employees have caused some two dozen industries to create an organization– the Alliance for an Experienced Workforce – its purpose to find creative ways to retain baby boomers.
Working with Baby Boomers, can you teach an old dog new tricks?
So, what do these older workers want? How can they be retained or rehired by new companies avoiding what some business analysts are calling a huge knowledge gap?” Research shows that these potential and recent retirees want “quality of life.” Part time work, flex scheduling and job sharing are all a trend driven by this demographic-many of whom cannot financially afford a full retirement or are just not ready to slow completely down.
Gen X managers are faced with the challenge/opportunity presented by this talent pool of older workers. Managers can tap into this employee resource by creating a climate for the older worker, keeping them active and productive and thereby benefiting from experience that is invaluable.
Think about some specifics to remember when hiring and managing workers much older than you – think telling your mother or father what to do!!
- Avoid stereotypical thinking. Older workers are as varied in personalities as are workers in every age group.
- Communicate clearly and specifically. Don’t say “take care of this for me.” Give a specific request with a specific date of completion.
- Have an awareness of range of ages that classify one as an “older worker.” A “young” recent retiree of 55 will need to be treated differently than a worker of 70+ who just wants to keep active or may need to work. Each group will require different management approaches, just as a recent college grad of 22 and a 35 year old worker are treated differently.
- Respect the life experiences of those who have “been around the block” and learned from the “school of hard knocks.”
- No matter their age or prior experiences, expect to train older workers. The up side, of course, is that training time is usually reduced.
- Be aware of and address these workers security needs such as medical coverage ad financial planning.
- Motivate them – that is a manager’s job after all. They may not be expecting to advance with the company but remember to recognize them when they do a good job.
- Don’t be concerned about your image as “the boss.” Most of them were bosses at some point themselves. Just lead the department – no need to posture. These workers get the hierarchy of corporate life.
- Be flexible when at all possible. Remember that flexibility is important to workers in this phase of their life. For most, it is more important than money.
This does not necessarily translate into a shorter work day!! Think creative scheduling that gets the job done.
- Consider allowing the older worker to mentor younger workers. Most are eager to share knowledge and experience. Of course, managers have to get a sense of who is able to mentor and who is receptive to being mentored. This is where a manager needs to use his people skills. You don’t want a mentor who is going to bore with stories about the “way we used to do it,” or has a condescending “know it all” attitude.
Do older workers still make good workers or good potential workers? Of course they do, but managers need to keep in mind that they also may require a somewhat different type of management. As these baby boomers redefine work, don’t forget you may want to consider making an effort to retain them or even hire them for available new positions.