Managing Baby Boomers In The Workplace

The number of baby boomers in the workplace is decreasing with more and more boomers reaching retirement age every year. However, baby boomers still make up a significant portion of the American workforce. With workers of the millennial generation recently being named the largest generation represented in the workplace, ready or not, younger managers are supervising older employees every day.

Baby Boomers are a unique group of people to manage because they are at the age where they are transitioning into retirement. This means you'll have workers who are not necessarily interested in working harder or putting in more hours, but they still maintain valuable experience and skills that would be difficult to replace. Here are some tips on managing baby boomers- how to create a culture of success, how to minimize conflict, and how to provide feedback that will motivate baby boomers towards greater performance!

Provide Baby Boomers With Opportunities to Mentor

Mentorship opportunities can be incredibly powerful when it comes to managing baby boomers in the workplace. Older baby boomer workers often have decades of experience and wisdom to offer younger employees. Younger baby boomer workers, meanwhile, can share their knowledge with other employees in the workplace. Additionally, the baby boomer worker values teamwork but also desire respect from their younger counterparts. To foster this dynamic, consider creating mentoring partnerships between older and younger employees. You could casually create working groups of mixed ages, or pair up underperforming millennial employees with baby boomers. It's a win-win situation that benefits both generations and creates an environment where everyone is valued for their contributions. Some tips for making this relationship work:

  • Allow baby boomer mentors the opportunity to teach and share their expertise with younger colleagues while they're still on the job. This will provide them with an extra sense of purpose in life as well as allow you to tap into a wealth of knowledge from your older staff members who may be leaving soon, or already gone.
  • Give baby boomer mentees responsibilities that are specific to their skills and interests. This will help keep them motivated and engaged in their work, as well as give them a sense of ownership in the workplace.
  • Encourage baby boomer mentors and mentees to stay in touch even after they've left the job. This can be done through social media, networking events, or simply staying in touch over coffee. By fostering these relationships, you'll create a support system for both baby boomers and younger workers in the workforce.

Millennials thrive on feedback and approval, so having older workers recognize their contributions while also earning their respect as a mentor could create the perfect work environment for both.

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Millennials thrive on feedback and approval, so having older workers recognize their contributions while also earning their respect as a mentor could create the perfect work environment for both. #ManagingBabyBoomers

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Baby Boomers In The Workplace Need A Maintain Competitive Edge

Unlike younger generations, most notably the millennial age group, baby boomers are generally loyal to their workplaces and are comfortable working long hours. That isn't to say that they want to become stagnant in their positions. Because you can rest assured that baby boomers won't be hopping jobs every few years like their younger coworkers when managing baby boomers take the time to work with them and see what skills they would like to develop during their time with you. Furthermore, it's important for baby boomers in the workplace to stay up-to-date with new developments in their industry, which can help keep them engaged and productive even as retirement looms on the horizon. Here are some tips for baby boomers who want to maintain a competitive edge:

  • Keep Learning: As baby boomers, we are often stereotyped as being set in our ways. However, this isn't always the case - many boomers are eager to learn new things and stay current in their field. Encourage your employees to take continuing education classes or read trade journals to keep up with the latest advances. Are they interested in becoming better leaders? Send them to a conference on business leadership. Does your baby boomer employee want to do more public speaking? Arrange for them to present at the next staff meeting. Capitalize on your employee's loyalty to help them develop over the years into the best possible worker for your organization.
  • Don't Assume: Remember that baby boomers had a different upbringing and a different perspective on life than younger workers. While some baby boomers have already found post-retirement jobs, many others are just as eager as their younger co-workers to continue working well into their retirement years. Avoid making assumptions about how baby boomers view work and retirement and keep an open mind.
  • Use Technology: Many baby boomers are unfamiliar with newer technologies, but that doesn't mean they can't learn. In fact, baby boomers can be some of the most successful students of new technologies, as they're often more patient and willing to take the time to learn how to use them properly. Introduce baby boomers to new technologies gradually, and provide them with training before expecting them to use it in their work.
  • Offer Flexible Hours: Many baby boomers have retired already, but others may still have family members at home or otherwise be unable to work a typical Monday-Friday, nine-to-five schedule. When managing baby boomers,  try to offer flexible hours to those who might not be comfortable working a traditional schedule.
Tips For Working With Baby Boomers

Build Strong Work Relationships

Baby boomers in the workplace typically value relationships more than results; boomers are loyal and want to feel like they're contributing. For baby boomers, work isn't just a paycheck - it's their life's passion. So, find ways to tap into that and help baby boomers build strong work relationships. To maximize performance, you need to take the time to get to know baby boomers. Here are some tips on how to foster strong work relationships:

  • Feedback & Praise - when managing baby boomers, provide lots of feedback, both good and bad. Praise them for a job well done, or if they could work on something different. Baby boomers are receptive to feedback, but be sure to give it positively. It can be hard to not take criticism personally, so be sure to focus more on the positive aspects of performance rather than dwelling on shortcomings.
  • Clear Instruction - baby boomers usually want very specific instructions, so leave no room for confusion. Baby boomers are accustomed to working in more structured careers, so they prefer clear instructions and projects with firm deadlines. Baby boomers can be less willing to take risks or try something new, but baby boomer managers need to let baby boomers know that their ideas are still valuable even if they don't follow through on them.
  • Give Them A Voice - baby boomers have a lot of knowledge and experience to share. As baby boomers retire, don't let their vast amount of experience go to waste. baby boomers are more than happy to share their advice and wisdom if they feel like they're contributing to the company.
  • Regular Meetings - schedule weekly meetings to touch base and ask about not just their work, but also their families.
  • Team Bonding - when managing baby boomers, be inclusive! Invite them to a Friday happy hour or a professional networking event.
  • In-Person Communication - and don't forget to communicate in person as often as possible. Texting may be the route to take with millennials, but your boomer employees will value some face-to-face supervision.

Managing mixed generations can be a rewarding challenge. Taking the time to meet the needs of baby boomers in the workplace will ensure that all employees are reaching their unique potentials. Baby boomers are the generation that most managers will be supervising. To maximize baby boomer performance, it's important to understand what makes baby boomers tick and how they like to work. Work with them as if you were their boss and provide feedback for their ideas even when they don't come through right away - there is so much wisdom and knowledge among this group of workers!

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About the Author Jennifer Orechwa

With over 25 years in the industry, and now as IRI's Director of Business Development, Jennifer has gained a unique perspective on what it takes to build a culture of engagement. By blending a deep understanding of labor and employee relations with powerful digital marketing knowledge, Jennifer has helped thousands of companies achieve behavioral change at a cultural level.

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