The Baby Boom generation have been part of the workforce for decades – and they are not planning to leave it anytime soon. But how can companies bring the best out of their Baby Boomers? The answer lies in offering them flexibility in their working schedule, benefits and rewards that are tailored to their needs, and the opportunity to pass on their experience through inter-generational mentoring.
Their days of ‘Easy Rider’ motorbike journeys and hugging trees may be over, but the ‘Baby Boom’ generation is still making its presence felt in the world as part of today’s workforce.
Having torn up the rule book in so many other aspects of life in their earlier years, Baby Boomers are now defying expectations when it comes to retirement. Forget the slippers and the rocking chair, 66% of Boomers in the U.S. plan to or already are working past 65 - or don’t plan to retire at all. The need to cover the cost of daily living, health spending and/or kids’ university fees looms large in this decision to keep working. The situation is somewhat different in Europe, where government-funded healthcare and pension provision mean that workers are more likely than their American counterparts to stop working in their 60s.
A wealth of expertise
However, all Baby Boomers have a great deal to offer their employers – along with a different perspective on needs and aspirations in the workplace. Boomers have typically accumulated considerable knowledge about their industry - and their companies, if they are long-serving employees. Increasingly, that valuable expertise is being made available to younger, high-potential managers through corporate mentoring programs. Some firms encourage senior executives who are planning to retire to stay on in part-time consulting roles to help train their successors, thereby helping business continuity.
A desire for flexibility
So, if Boomers are clearly being recognized as an asset, what is the key to keeping them motivated? The answer is to understand their specific needs, compared to other generations, with a desire for work flexibility coming top of the list. A study published by the Harvard Business Review showed that 87% of Boomers consider work flexibility to be important. This is partly due to the fact that 71% of them are juggling the needs of different family generations, but also because the flame of idealism still burns bright for many: 55% of them volunteer their time to support environmental, cultural, educational, or other causes.
Offering the right kind of rewards
Another way to keep Boomers motivated is through incentive and reward schemes, an area where their tastes differ from those of Gen X and Millennials. A survey by World at Work showed that younger members of staff, for example, value career development more than older employees.To be effective, those benefits need to be aligned with the profile of a typical Boomer. As highlighted in a paper published by Sodexo, there is little point offering a supercar drive or an afternoon rolling down a hillside inside a plastic ball (zorbing) to an employee in their 60s or 70s – irresistible though the offer might be to a Millennial. By contrast, healthcare benefits, travel vouchers or a suitable day-trip can be very popular. The challenge is to devise a benefit and reward scheme that recognizes the value of Baby Boomers, and makes them feel part of the family.
With their knowledge and experience of the world of work, Baby Boomers can be part of the success story in any organization. Not only do they bring expertise, Boomers also help companies to maintain a diverse workforce – one that reflects the diversity of a global business. All they need are the right kind of rewards, and a maybe little time for tree-hugging…
FOCUS – 3 QUESTIONS TO
Baby Boomers make a valuable contribution to Circles, a Sodexo company that specializes in concierge services. Sophie Belval-Sautelet. Vice-President Human Resources – Circles shares her experience of the Boomer generation.
What role do Baby Boomers play at Circles in France?
Sophie Belval-Sautelet: About 13% of our employees are Baby Boomers, working part-time and full-time, with an age range from 53 to 65. They mainly work on-site at companies providing our concierge services. Many of those who join us are looking for a career change that combines retirement with some form of activity. For others, it’s a way back into the world of work, as Sodexo supports groups like FACE (Foundation Against Exclusion), and Force Femmes (Women Power), to help people facing exclusion.
What are Boomers needs?
For those who choose part-time, they are looking for flexibility in terms of working hours, as they want time to visit sons and daughters, and perhaps look after grandchildren. But in the workplace, they don’t have any particular requirements.
What attracts them is the more ‘family’ type of atmosphere of the work environment here and, despite the stereotypes, the chance to learn about new technology and the new forms of communication.
What do Boomers bring to the table?
They bring a great deal of experience, they are familiar with the corporate environment and they are very committed and reliable. Staff turnover is lower, as they are not really looking to make the next step up the career ladder, and they have a real desire to work collectively, to help people and to share their knowledge with others. They also contribute to the diversity of the workforce which is a real asset in a company.