Not all Baby Boomer employees are rushing for retirement. Some want to keep working for years, and some must stay in the workforce due to lack of retirement funds. Unfortunately, after 30-50 years of working, some are just burned out. You can sense their lack of engagement and measure their lowered productivity.
As Boomers are still the largest age group in the workforce today, you need your their knowledge and productivity to keep your team meeting goals. But you don’t need burned out Baby Boomers (BBB). Unfortunately, re-engaging and reigniting a BBB’s excitement and creativity at work may seem like an overwhelming task, especially when you’re hiring Millennials who are ready to shoot out of the cannon and move as quickly as possible into the boomers’ roles.
There’s good news on the demographic horizon. Simultaneous to having a workforce consisting of three generations, there is an increase of non-white workers coming aboard. Be they Latino or African American or from one of the Asian ethnic groups or South Asia, employees in each of these cultural groups by in large greatly honor the role of the older person. In the family, an older person is shown great respect by all younger generations. Happily, this demographic shift will spill over into the workplace, positively affecting everyone.
Rather than try to ignore that your older Boomers exist and wait for them to leave, leverage the qualities that only a person who has been in the workforce 30-50 years can have.
Igniter #1: coaching and mentoring relationships
If there’s one thing 30-50 years working gives an employee is experience: a view on how things work. Warren Buffet gives accolades to his teachers and his mentor Ben Graham. Bill Gates is openly appreciative of Warren Buffet. “Just hearing his stories of how he dealt with tough situations, how he thought long-term, how he models the world,” said Gates in CNBC town hall at Columbia University in November 2009.
Many organizations are recognizing the pending crisis in the leadership pipeline and establishing formal programs where senior executives mentor high-potential younger employees. You can launch a similar program within your sphere of influence.
Find out the long-term career plans of your younger employees and what they want or need to know to meet their goals. Partner them with a Boomer coach/mentor. Mentors can then be available to help the protégé negotiate organizational politics, learn effective communication and negotiation tactics and identify and solve individual hurdles that may prohibit the younger employee from reaching career goals.
Provide basic guidelines and also delegate each coach/protégé team to draft their own contract of accountability:
- Exactly what does the younger employee need from the boomer?
- What is their operational plan for the relationship (weekly meetings, project reports, feedback)?
- How are they going to measure their success (define the SMART goals)?
Igniter #2: circular coaching/tech coaching
Millennials are digital natives. Most things tech come to them with relative ease. Many Boomers are early adopters and can’t wait to use the next hardware, firmware, online courses, and so forth. And, of course, there are some in both groups who take a little longer to catch on.
If your company has recently purchased any new cloud-ware or software such as a learning management system (LMS), the vendor usually provides a short amount of training and then disappears. Why not assemble a cross-generation project team to identify and develop Tech Coaching solutions for all employees who need them?
If you’ve developed your coaching and career mentoring program, you’ll already have a blueprint for your Tech Coach program, be it formal or informal.
Igniter #3: stretch goals and professional learning
Many of your BBBs are bored with mediocrity. As a manager you’re in a position to change that.
Engage in frequent, formal meetings with each member of the team. Ask your BBB, “If you could work in any department in the organization, which one would give you the most thrill?” If the answer turns out to be the safe one, “I like my job, I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else,” you may have some trust building to do. When that trust is established, your BBB will give you a more honest or fleshed-out answer.
Next step: determine what small steps and learning opportunities you can provide to get your BBB closer to her new role. Can you reassign projects so that your BBB has opportunities to work with employees in the area of interest? Have the BBB research free online courses in this arena as well.
If a BBB truly does want to remain in his current job, brainstorm ways it can become exciting again. Sometimes it’s as easy as moving a workstation. I know I would become a BBB if I had to hear the same chatter from adjacent peers for 20 years. Move me to a spot with a little more light and a little less chatter, you may find BBB is now your Blast-Off Baby Boomer.