For many working women, “water cooler talk” has been replaced with gathering in the kitchen for a “break” every 10 minutes to open the fridge, pour another cup of coffee, or begin the lunch process (keep in mind I have five distance learners in this household whose ages range from 6 to 21).
A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that one of my older child’s response to my complaining or sharing my opinion about a particular topic, resulted in the comment, “OK, boomer.” I am not a boomer, so it was kind of satisfying to watch him stumble when I asked him the years Boomers were born. Of course, he didn’t know, and I am guessing that’s the same for all the people throwing that comment out as an insult.
No matter how one feels about this generation, boomers are an important part of the workforce structure. As more boomers delay retirement, they can play an important role in the workplace by imparting their knowledge and unique skill sets to help fill the growing knowledge gap.
While 10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age each day, only 5,900 actually retire daily, according to Pew Research. In 2018, 29% of workers between the ages of 65 and 72 actively participated in the workforce either by working or looking for work. Compared to the same age group of past generations approaching retirement (Silent Generation and Greatest Generation at 21% and 19%, respectively), it’s plain to see that boomers continue to have a major impact on the workforce. As nearly a third of boomers forego retirement, their diminishing numbers are slowly creating a knowledge gap, despite the slower retirement pace.
Filling the knowledge gap
Although the loss in knowledge and expertise is gradual, it will soon become apparent that the transition of this generation out of the workforce will cause a monumental void. As was the case with past generational shifts, the next generation tends to rise to the top to take the torch left by the incumbent. However, Generation X, which spans those born between 1965 and 1980, is significantly smaller than boomers and tends to value workplace flexibility over boomers’ traditional view of work. The next generation, millennials, those born between 1981 and 1996, make up 35% of the U.S. workforce and 37% of the Canadian workforce, making them the largest generation in the workforce.
Imparting skills and expertise
As the gap grows, employers will feel the brunt of this generational shift and need to look for solutions to help bridge the gap between the boomers, Xers and millennials. One effective way companies may help fill the knowledge gap is to focus on an intentional passing-of-the-torch to ensure a smooth and successful transition. This can be accomplished through mentorships, training programs and effective succession planning. And due to more boomers holding off retirement, employers have a unique opportunity to take advantage of their more seasoned workers to help train younger professionals.
To help with this, companies can try these solutions:
Develop Skills Training Courses: Embrace the knowledge of your more experienced workers by acknowledging specific areas where a knowledge or skills gap is apparent and develop training to help younger professionals grow.
Create Mentorship Programs: Utilize the age-old art form of apprenticeships, allowing boomers to mentor other workers in the office to allow for one-on-one skills, career, and leadership development.
Consider Generational Cross Training: Understanding the need for fluency in the workplace, allow Xers and millennials to learn non-job specific skills from boomers in different departments.
Although gradual, retiring boomers create a knowledge gap. How companies prepare for it will determine future generational success in the workplace.Kristen Asleson is owner of Midwest Virtual Assistants. Send comments and ideas to email@example.com.