Older and wiser: Why every organisation should hold onto Baby Boomer workers

We’ve all heard the stereotypes about Baby Boomers at work.

Younger colleagues confuse Baby Boomers’ strong work ethic with workaholism. Employers worry that older workers are scared of change, hoard information and don’t like technology.

These stereotypes aren’t fair – or accurate. Baby Boomers might be older, but they’ve got valuable experience and skills that many younger workers lack. In times of crisis, for example, most organisations would appreciate insights from an older, experienced worker who’s seen it all before.

We’ve shared tips for engaging Gen Y in the workplace before, but how about Baby Boomers? Here are a few ideas for engaging Baby Boomers – and why it’s a good idea to do so.

What Baby Boomers want

Baby Boomers work hard and tend to stay in jobs for longer. They like to be acknowledged for their achievements, but would never seek praise like Gen Y workers do.

Baby Boomers are generally happy to follow orders, though they may find it difficult to work for a younger or less experienced manager.

Show you respect their knowledge and experience

The oldest Baby Boomers turn 70 next year. Some have worked for 50 years or longer – and many expect to stay in the trenches for a while yet.

With decades of experience, Baby Boomers need to see that employers value their input, even if they do things a little differently. Some ways to do this include:

  • Ask Baby Boomers for advice about business challenges
  • Encourage them to share knowledge by mentoring younger workers
  • Give them titles and authority that reflect their responsibilities

Offer part-time or flexible hours

Many Baby Boomers seek part-time work to transition into retirement. This means employers can help keep Baby Boomers engaged by offering flexible work arrangements.

Be prepared to negotiate hours with older workers. Could they do the same work in four days instead of five? Is it possible to hire them as a contractor instead of an employee? Show Baby Boomers you’re willing to be flexible and they’ll reward you with longer retention and improved productivity.

Seeing eye to eye with Gen Y

Each generation thinks and communicates differently. This can cause friction in the workplace, particularly if Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y don’t understand how the other generation likes to work.

For example, Baby Boomers value hard work. They respect authority. It’s easy to see why they might be frustrated when a Gen Y worker asks for a pay rise after two months on the job. At the same time, Gen Y workers may think Baby Boomers work too hard for little reward.

It’s important to remember that intergenerational clashes are often the result of different ways of thinking.

When a Baby Boomer is irritated by a Gen Y worker’s sense of entitlement, for example, it can be useful to remind the Baby Boomer that it’s a generational trait – not a personality flaw.

Baby Boomers work best when their employer values their experience and they can share knowledge with others. While some generational conflict is unavoidable, Baby Boomers are more likely to stay on with an employer if their approach to work is respected.

The business case for retaining Baby Boomers is clear. They’re happy to work long hours. They’re experienced. They don’t need constant praise like Gen Y, and they’re not always looking for their next career opportunity. It doesn’t take much to keep Baby Boomers engaged, but the results are worth it.