Baby Boomers have had an enormous impact on the workforce, and even though they are reaching traditional retirement age at the rate of about 10,000 per day, don’t expect their presence to end anytime soon. Boomers still make up a large segment of the population, and many of them are managers and business owners. So let’s shine the spotlight on Baby Boomers in the workforce.
Baby Boomer statistics
Baby Boomers represent the 75 million people born between 1946 and 1964. Although many have reached retirement age, the sheer size of their generation ensures that they are still a force to be reckoned with in the workplace. Nearly 45 million Boomers are working in the U.S., representing about 29 percent of the labor force as of 2015 (the latest data available).
According to a study done by Boston College, 66 percent of Baby Boomer workers plan to work past age 65, if they retire at all. More than half of them intend to continue working after retirement, primarily for the income or health benefits.
Baby Boomer values and characteristics
Each generation is influenced by different events, technology, and economic circumstances, among other factors. While broad generalizations are never a good idea, there may be some truth to these generational characteristics.
- Communicators. Baby Boomers did not grow up with technology running their lives. They made phone calls, wrote letters and had face-to-face conversations. As a result, they have communication skills that may be lacking in younger generations. Although Boomers adapted to technology and use cell phones and tablets, they see these as productivity tools as opposed to connectivity tools.
- Hard workers. Baby Boomers in America were born into considerable wealth and economic security. They were able to find secure, well-paying jobs, which drove consumption. They sought the “American Dream,” i.e. kids, a 9-to-5 career, kids and a new car. This paved the path for workaholic tendencies. Many Boomers find self-worth from their work.
- Competitive. The Baby Boom generation got its name from the greatly elevated birth rate following World War II. At that time, a strong post-war economy meant that Americans felt confident they could support a large number of children. That sudden growth in population caused overcrowded schools and colleges and a lot of competition for jobs in the early years of the boom. As a result, Baby Boomers learned to compete for resources and success.
Baby Boomers as employees
Millennials are often cited as the driving force behind flexible work policies, including part-time schedules and the opportunity to telecommute, but Boomers deserve some of the credit. Twenty-eight percent of Boomers plan to continue working as long as possible but reduce work hours, allowing for more leisure time to enjoy life. When Baby Boomers retire, they leave hard-to-fill vacancies in critical leadership and technology roles. This leads more employers to accommodate their needs to avoid losing valuable organizational knowledge.
The most important things Boomers look for in a job are meaningful work, commute time, employee benefits and job security.
Remember that these trends do not necessarily apply to all members of a generation. It’s important to get to know the individual rather than rely on stereotypes. But with four generations in today’s workplace, organizations should look to achieve a strategic advantage by embracing diversity among generations and creating an environment that values people and keeps them productive, regardless of age.