Millennials, millennials, millennials. That’s all we hear about these days, right? Millennials are taking over the workforce, and companies need to learn how to engage them if they want to harness their talent and energy. Of course, as a millennial myself, I agree that this is extremely important. But to go against the narcissistic stereotype of my generation, I can’t help but wonder: what about the rest of today’s employees – the non-millennials?
Millennials have taken over as the largest living generation, but the workforce still includes multiple generations, including boomers and Gen X. And while most are focusing on engaging millennials – and even preparing for (gasp!) Gen Z – keeping your more seasoned employees engaged is just as important as engaging the younger ones.
Let’s look at boomers, for example – those born somewhere between 1946-1964, or people ages 53-71. Many boomers simply aren’t retiring as early as they used to. While I know my dad would love to spend his week days kicking back on a Florida beach, cold drink in hand, he, like many of his generation, is still heading into an office every day. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 56 percent of men and 45 percent of women ages 62-64 are working or looking for work. And, almost 20 percent of Americans 65 and older are still working.
But just because they’re still working doesn’t mean they’re still engaged. According to Gallup, only 32.7 percent of boomer employees are engaged at work. If you think about it, that’s fair – they’ve been working for a long time. But this generation is also known as the most hardworking. That colleague who’s in before you, leaves after you and is sending emails on a Sunday morning? Probably a boomer (and maybe a workaholic…but no one’s perfect). They’re also known to be optimistic and loyal, and value integrity, honesty, trust and respect – values that I, as a millennial, hope to emulate.
So how do you keep boomers engaged? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Don’t overlook their training needs. Because they have been in the workforce for a long time, boomers may not be the first employees to come to mind for professional development. But with new technologies, tools and processes being introduced every day, they need training just like the rest of your employees. Make sure you’re giving them the time and support they need to learn and succeed.
- Challenge them. From kids to grandkids, new hobbies to well-earned vacations, many boomers have pretty full lives outside of work – which can detract from their commitment to the company. Keep them engaged by offering new projects that will challenge them. This is an extremely goal-oriented generation that thrives on challenges, and providing new opportunities will make them feel more productive and valued.
- Leverage their experience and expertise. Give your boomer employees the opportunity to pass on their knowledge, advice and values to the next generation by serving as mentors for your millennial employees. Not only will they support their colleagues’ growth, but it will help them remember what they love about their career and why they chose it in the first place.
Boomers still have a lot to offer to the workplace. Their years of experience and commitment to your company can be a huge asset when trying to engage millennials – because they’re the ones setting the example for work ethic, respect and, ultimately, our level of engagement.
Do you think your company is doing enough to engage its boomer employees?
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