Retiring Baby Boomers: Does Your Company Have A Plan?By: Jeannie Moravits Smith
Baby Boomers are those people who were born between 1946 and 1964, representing 76 million individuals. The sheer magnitude of the number of births during this period has had a major impact on many aspects of our economy over the last fifty years. During the next five to ten years, we could very well experience the greatest impact our work force has ever seen.
Baby Boomers make up a third or more of the nation's work force. The implications for the work force could be huge as the Baby Boomers retire. They currently fill many of its most skilled and senior jobs. This group is made up of some of the most aggressive, creative and demanding workers on the market. They have been referred to as the "work-alcoholics". Their work habits & dedication are second to none. Baby Boomers tend to value personal growth, want to be involved, believe in team orientation, and they value company commitment and loyalty. They understand and believe in sacrifice for success and are pretty comfortable with conflict. They seek opportunities for emotional fulfillment, meaning in their lives, and like to be asked for their input. They are believers in "paying one's dues". Baby Boomers are motivated by group discussions, teamwork, and increased responsibility. Corporations value their expertise, stability, experience, maturity, and wisdom. Among the options likely to grow more common in order to retain our aging population of workers are part-time positions, job sharing, flex-time, consulting arrangements, and extended time off when possible. It's important to provide Baby Boomers with public recognition, perks with status, and reward work ethic and long hours.
Traditionally, most people retire in their early to mid-60s. If that holds true, between 2008 and 2020, tens of millions of people will leave the work force due to retirement. By 2010, the 50 year old - plus portion in the United States will grow by 21 million and the number of Americans older than 65 is expected to grow to 40.2 million while the 18 to 34 year old portion will grow by just 5 million. By 2018, all but the youngest Baby Boomers will be of retirement age. "Baby Boomers are going to be retiring in droves starting with the end of this decade. There are certain industries and professions that are going to be hit very hard." says Arlene Dohm, an economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington, D.C.
As stated, there are certain industries and professions that are going to be hit hard as Baby Boomers start to retire from the work force. Complicating the situation is a much smaller pool of workers immediately following the Baby Boomers. This smaller pool represents the Generation X group: those people born between 1965 and 1980. This group represents only 46 million individuals. The gap between the 76 million Baby Boomers and the 46 million Generation X group is one of the issues work-force planners are most worried about. Generation X individuals prefer an entrepreneurial, independent type of work style. They usually thrive on diversity and desire high levels of responsibility. They are very quick to find other employment if employers fail to meet their needs as they tend to be a bit impatient. This group has learned to be flexible and mobile. They desire immediate feedback and honesty. They have grown up learning by doing, and for the most part, need visual stimulation. Generally speaking, this group tends to focus on results while working in a fun, casual environment. They require signs of employer commitment to develop loyalty. In order to retain your Generation X folks, you should set up a system for promotion based on performance rather than age or tenure, establish a culture that allows involvement in the decision making process and mutually beneficial relationships with management.
The term Generation Y refers to the young adults born between 1980 and 2000. They're the children of Baby Boomers and the upbeat younger siblings of Generation X. Their presence will continue to grow each year for the next ten years. The Generation Y, aka Echos and Nexters, do not know life without the internet. They are used to 24/7 availability and connectivity. These folks are self-confident and optimistic and they admire integrity. The culture that is most suited for these individuals is one of a competitive nature as they are goal and achievement oriented. They have a capacity for multi-tasking and truly understand the importance of global connections. They value honestly and integrity in leaders. They tend to be very savvy yet blunt and contradictory. Generation Y is most interested in working with people they "click" with. They want to be treated with respect for their ideas. Generation Y is motivated by rapid results and unique work experiences. These folks thrive by high levels of diversity and responsibility. What matters most to them is the quality of their manager. They want the opportunity to communicate with all levels of the organization and receive mentoring by senior executives. In order to retain Generation Yers, establish a culture that allows for highly creative work, flexible schedules, and individual incentive programs.
Given the differences in work styles, employment attributes, and motivation factors between the aging loyal Baby Boomers, the fun Generation Xers, and the opportunistic Generation Yers, it is important to alter the culture to support the entire work population. It's important to consider the styles, characteristics and motivators of each of the generations and redefine traditional work relationships to not only suit the aging worker, but the young adults just now coming into the work world.
As noted in "Preparing for Baby Boomer Retirement" by James J. L'Allier, Ph.D & Kenneth Kolosh, "While the stakes are high and the issues complex, those companies that think through the data, come up with the right questions and craft a long-term comprehensive strategy now not only will survive this historic wave, but also will have the potential ride its crest. Useful demographic information, insights into associated data and a set of comprehensive questions will help you lay the foundation of a strategic plan to position your company for opportunity and growth as the retirement wave approaches." If you have not already done so, now is the time to determine your company's strategy for not only the large number of retiring Baby Boomers but for the shortage of Generation X and Y workers.
© Copyright 2008, Jeannie Moravits Smith
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