There are four different generations of people making up the workforce right now, with a fifth generation on the way. With such a large pool of talent to draw from, more and more, mature-aged workers are overlooked in favor of younger, more tech-savvy workers. But there is still plenty that the baby boomer generation has to offer, and if your workplace is neglecting to hire mature-aged workers, you’re missing out on a wealth of work and life experience, dependability, wisdom, and discipline.
Learn more about the characteristics of baby boomers, including the advantages and disadvantages of hiring mature workers and how to work past generational issues in the workplace.
Baby Boomer Characteristics Compared to Other Generations
|Birth Date/Age||Shared Experiences||Work Style/Values|
|Vietnam War, Cold War, Watergate, Moon landing, Woodstock||In-person, formal, physical paper, hard-working, judgmental|
|Fall of Berlin Wall, rising divorce rates, MTV, cable television||Email and text messages, voicemail, self-reliant|
|Gen Y (Millennials)||
|Y2K, 9/11, reality TV, diversity, President Obama, social media||Instant communication, collaborative, flexible|
|Climate change, economic downturn, school shootings, President Trump, COVID-19||
Structure, immediate, face-to-face, smart technology
|Gen A (Alpha)||
Born: 2010s +
|Climate crisis, polarized politics, misinformation, COVID-19||Ingrained tech, online learning|
We cover other generations, specifically accommodating Millennials and Gen Z in the workforce, in a previous article: Millennials vs. Gen Z — What Different Generations Want From the Workplace.
Historical Facts About Baby Boomers
Baby boomers are called so because they were born after World War 2 during the ‘baby boom,’ when soldiers returned home and married couples became eager to return to normal and start a family. 3.4 million babies were born in 1946, more than ever before. And in 1947, another 3.7 million babies were born. In 1952, 3.9 million babies were born. And more than 4 million babies were born every year between 1954 and 1964. By the end of the baby boom, baby boomers made up almost 40% of the population of the United States.
The baby boom also coincided with the suburban boom, when families moved en masse to modest houses on the outskirts of the city. They did so because the G.I. Bill subsidized low-cost mortgages for returning soldiers, so it was often cheaper to buy a house in the suburbs than it was to rent an apartment in the city. There was also a strong societal push for women to leave their jobs and stay at home to raise all of these children.
In the United States, in particular, there was also plenty of reason to be hopeful for the future, as corporations were growing, labor unions promised good wages and benefits, and consumer goods were more affordable and abundant than ever before.
What Do Baby Boomers Value?
So, baby boomers grew up during a time of prosperity, when most families made good money and everyone was generally doing the same thing. Getting a job, moving to the suburbs, starting a family, and buying lots and lots of things was the name of the game during the baby boom, and these values were instilled in the baby boomers who grew up during this time.
However, some baby boomers, particularly baby boomers born in the latter half of the baby boom, rebelled against the consumerism and conformity that was so common during this time and turned to social justice efforts, the Civil Rights Movement, hippie counterculture, free love, and drugs.
Nowadays, baby boomers tend to value stability, family, organization, safety, hard work, and being part of a team.
Baby Boomer Traits
In keeping with the values listed above, some boomer characteristics include being dependable, obedient, organized, and self-disciplined. Baby boomers tend to have a strong work ethic. They are focused, team-oriented, and competitive. They like to set goals for themselves and be given goals to achieve.
Baby Boomers in the Workplace
These values and traits make baby boomers excellent people to have in the workplace. They thrive in a team-oriented, structured environment, and they take pride in their discipline and work ethic, which also gives them plenty of confidence that they can do their job well. Also, when compared to younger generations, baby boomers tend to respond favorably to extrinsic motivators like raises and promotions.
Baby boomers tend to make their job their identity, which means many of them have workaholic tendencies. However, many boomers see this as a good thing; in their eyes, being a workaholic demonstrates their commitment to their job. Boomers generally feel like younger generations don’t work hard enough.
Advantages of Mature-Aged Workers
There are huge advantages to having workers of various age ranges on your team. The more diverse your team, the better you can serve a diverse clientele and the better you can problem solve. Bringing together many different minds and perspectives is an ideal way to come up with new ways of solving problems.
Do you sell your product or service to an older clientele? With some changes, could you market your product or service to an older clientele? Having mature minds on your team will help you better understand the needs of a mature demographic.
Even though mature workers may not be as tech-savvy as younger Gen Z hires, they possess a different type of tech-savvy. Need to send a fax? There’s a good chance your baby boomer hire knows the ins and outs of fax machines. Need someone to quickly scribe meeting notes? Baby boomers grew up learning strict typing skills.
Companies that hire older workers gain the benefit of mature minds who have many, many years of both work and life experience. They bring a unique mindset, especially to teams that lean toward a younger demographic.
Are There Disadvantages of Hiring Older Workers?
Yes, there are disadvantages to hiring older workers, but there are disadvantages and advantages to hiring members of every generation.
Older workers may struggle to adopt new technologies as quickly as younger workers, and they may be more set in their ways and resistant to change. Since baby boomers value security and stability so much, they may push back against change and take longer to adapt to company changes. They may not appreciate workplace freedom and flexibility as much as other members of your team.
That said, it’s all about balance. Having most of your team made up of mature workers will limit your team, but the same is true of having a purely young team that lacks the stability and life experience of mature workers.
How to Make the Most of a Generation Gap in the Workplace
Generation gaps can develop in workplaces when different generations are not able to see things eye-to-eye. Since their worldview and life experiences are so different, it can be difficult to find common ground in the workplace.
Generation gap examples:
- Members of Gen Z being impatient with older workers who often take longer to learn new technologies.
- Older workers not understanding the trends of younger generations.
- Language barriers between all generations based on new words and phrases that continually develop.
- Differing communication preferences across generations.
It’s up to managers and the workplace at large to ensure generational differences don’t turn into huge gaps that can erode effective communication, morale, and trust.
Understand Technology Differences Between Generations
While major technology gaps exist between baby boomers and Gen Zers, that doesn’t mean baby boomers are incapable of learning. While it may not come naturally, baby boomers can apply their strong focus and work ethic to learning the ins and outs of modern office technology—as long as the workplace is committed to investing in proper training.
Technology is evolving all the time, so even workers you hired five years ago will have gaps in their tech knowledge. This is why it’s important to offer tech training to your employees on a regular basis because without it, your business will fall behind.
It’s also important to meet your baby boomer employees halfway. If they struggle to keep up with Slack messages, send them a detailed email every so often instead to keep them in the loop. Ask your mature employees how comfortable they are with communication technologies, and strive to make your workplace as welcoming as possible by communicating with people in the way that works best for them.
Be Mindful of Communication Preferences
Communication is the key to any strong, trusting team. Prioritize clear and effective communication across the board and invest in training that helps all team members better understand each other’s communication preferences.
Clear communication will help teams utilize their differences instead of working against them. Instead of being angry or frustrated by differing opinions or values, teams that prioritize communication ask questions and stay engaged. Why might someone think or act in a different way than you? How can you meet your team members halfway?
Break Free From Boomer Stereotypes
Commonalities certainly exist across generations, but that does not mean everyone relates to and conforms to the norms of their generation. Limit your assumptions and instead get to know each team member for who they are as an individual.
Don’t group your baby boomer team members into a box and make assumptions about their skills, values, and needs. Don’t assume—ask.
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