Leverage Boomers' Workplace Skills
The maturity that boomers add to your team creates an opportunity for you to leverage their experience.
According to the Pew Research Center, Gen X and Millennials combined make up around 34 percent of the workforce. Many Gen X workers, born 1965-1984, have already earned leadership positions and the super-stars in the advanced guard of millennials, born 1981-1987 aren’t far behind. At the other end of the workforce age spectrum are the baby boomers, born 1946-1964. Even though the elder boomers are retiring in droves, many boomers now in their 50’s and 60’s continue to play a key role in the workplace of today. As younger workers take charge, it is common for entry level millennial leaders to supervise baby boomers. To a neophyte, it may be daunting to supervise workers who are the same age as their parents. However, the maturity that boomers add to your team creates an opportunity for you to leverage their experience, enhance your position, and by capitalize on the many positive things that elder workers bring to your team.
- Dependability Children of the late 40’s and early 50’s were raised by parents who worked their entire career for one employer and retired after forty-plus years at the same job. Their parents were survivors of the Great Depression who taught their children to value work ethic. Boomers hate to let you down and will do everything within their power to accommodate work schedules and complete projects.
Leverage their commitment by developing work schedules compatible with their advanced age and including them when maturity will enhance the outcome of a special project.
- Loyalty Older workers who are still in the workforce have a loyalty to the employer and if you are their supervisor, they are loyal to you. They may have seniority on your team, but those working for you do not want your job. They do want to be part of a highly productive team and will support your every effort in achieving the mission, vision and values of the organization.
Leverage their loyalty by putting them in charge of projects where a steady hand is needed to guide a group of younger workers through new challenges. Smaller projects can be completely turned over to boomers with a high likelihood that they will be completed correctly. You will be amazed at the effort they invest into bringing the project to completion.
- Experience Baby boomers often have 20-40 years of history working in their career fields. Writing in Forbes.com, author Craig Malloy notes, “Boomers need to feel their experience in the workforce counts for something in the organization. These employees are, in part, motivated by mentoring team members, who may just be starting off on their career paths.”
Leverage the wealth of knowledge that the boomers possess by soliciting their opinions. Develop learning partnerships between elder and younger workers.
- Interpersonal skills Boomers were born into homes wired for land-line telephones and television sets that received only three channels. They communicated by talking to one another as opposed to email and texting. Those born before 1964 have flourished due to their ability to effectively communicate face to face with others.
Leverage their verbal skills by allowing them to mentor you when developing strategies to present your position to the team or to those in your chain of command. In addition, boomers went to school at a time when learning correct grammar and punctuation was required for graduation. They are amazing editors for the written material that you intend to send up the chain of command.
- Networking People who have been in the workforce for 30-50 years have a vast network of professional and personal acquaintances. It is likely that they know someone who has experience in just about anything that you want to accomplish.
Leverage the connections of your most experienced workers by asking them for references and connecting you with sources.
- Stability Boomers have been there and done that. It is difficult to ruffle their feathers and their depth of experience can bring a sense of calm to the chaotic modern workplace. Over the years, these hardy workers have survived crisis after crisis and have learned that when the dust settles, a viable answer usually emerges.
Leverage their real-life experience by allowing them to tutor you when you perceive an impending crisis.
- Adaptability Older workers may be perceived as being set in their ways, however, this older generation has lived a life of adaptability. They were born before computers or space travel and our current world is a totally different planet than the one on which they were born. Yet, as their workplace has evolved from paper to digital, they are still on the job.
Leverage their adaptability by including them in technology updates; After all, clearly, they aren’t too old to learn.
- Rebels Boomers were born in homes listening to 40’s big band, grew up with rock and roll and now enjoy modern music. They were also born in a segregated America and were the driving force for social justice and civil liberty. Boomers were rebels who saw the status quo as something that could be improved and jumped right in to make the changes. Maturity has not altered the rebel spirit that makes them want to shake up the status quo and build a better world.
Leverage their rebel spirit by establishing a team goal to build a preferred workplace and include boomers as leaders in the movement.
Generation X and Millennials who are being promoted to leadership positions do not need to be intimidated by the age or experience of older workers on the team. Take advantage of the diversity of thought and experience that older workers bring to the team and ensure your own success by learning from them. Once you realize that older workers want you to be successful and are more interested in visiting their grandchildren than stealing your job, you are free to open lines of communication and build on the wealth of experience that they possess
Tom S. Davis, DNAP, CRNA, MAE, is the former Chief of the Division of Nurse Anesthesia at The Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and former Chief CRNA at (Baylor) Scott and White, Main OR in Temple, TX. Col. Davis, USAF (Ret.), is well-known throughout the Nurse Anesthesia community for his leadership in clinical anesthesia, including developing the first distance education model while on the graduate faculty at Kansas University Medical Center. Recognized for his expertise in team-building across department lines, Tom is a sought-after speaker, educator, author, and leadership trainer. Follow @procrnatom on Twitter.