Category Archives: Baby Boomers

Boomers feeding restaurant creativity

For years, economists and generational experts have been talking about the business impact that will come as Baby Boomers retire in droves.  Entire industries have emerged to handle the needs of this enormous generation as it ages out of the work world and into some semblance of retirement – be that semi-retired or active senior living or long term care.  But Boomers are affecting established industries as well.

A recent story on NBC News highlights how restaurateurs are catering to the Boomer clientele. When we think of restaurants and other B2C business, the trends have historically shifted toward the youth.  What is up-and-coming? How can we attract young adults with their fresh paychecks and establish them as loyal customers for life?

Turns out the older generations are tired of the kitchen while the younger ones are just learning to appreciate the simple life, so the target audience changes. With Boomers holding the bulk of the purchasing power in America today, however, it seems more and more restaurants are shifting gears and considering how to appeal to more sophisticated – or simply older – tastes.  This blogger, however, seems to think that Gen X should be getting some extra TLC.

What generational stereotypes or habits are you holding onto?  Are they getting in the way of opportunity?  Think about it.

Don’t forget about the Boomers – financial advisor needs continue to grow

I work with a good deal of financial advisory firms, many of which are grappling with how to attract and engage younger investors to maintain a strong continuity of client base. And while this is increasingly important, it is also worth noting that the financial advisory needs of the Baby Boomers are not going away. In fact, they are likely to grow.

Relationship-oriented service businesses should not assume that all Boomers have established relationships with providers. An article in U-T San Diego quotes a 2013 study by the PNC Financial Services Group states that only 43% of Boomers surveyed have established or are planning to establish a financial plan. That means 57% of Boomers – the group that holds the majority of wealth in the nation – are likely in need of one, whether they admit it or not.

While financial advisors are out wooing younger investors who don’t think they need advisory services yet, they should also be educating older prospective clients who may be significant financial milestones in the very near future. The good news is that most financial advisors already know how to communicate with Boomers, the difference with this group of potentially hesitant clients is that you’ll need to do some educating and convincing that the need is there.

Marketer recognizes connection between oldest and youngest generations in the workplace

I’ve long recommended that employees connect younger employees with the elder statesmen (and women) of the company – either in addition to or instead of the traditional “next level up” mentor system. From a generational perspective, it seems that this youngest generation in the workforce has a sense of idealism that resonates with older generations – and is wholly lost on the Gen Xers in between.

At MoSoConf – Canada’s mobile and social conference held in Saskatchewan last month – marketing exec Michael Douma delivered the keynote address with a speech titled “Thinking Like a Millennial in an Industry of Boomers.”  Douma recognizes the seemingly illogical gap between the Millennials and Xers, focusing on some basic differences in how each generation responds to marketing.

Why is this important?

First, while the generations exist on a continuum the norms and behaviors they exhibit tend to have fairly clear breaking points. Yes, there are Xers who have Boomer habits, and Millennials who behave like Xers, but on the whole, the generations have somewhat predictable and distinct patterns. Contrary to logic, an “older Millennial” is not automatically more like a “young Xer.”

Second, the conversation is never just about the norms of a generation – it should be about generational norms in relation to one another. This is why the frustrations of a Gen X manager and Boomer manager trying to develop the same Millennial worker will be different. The similarities and disparities between any two generations is distinct to that generational match up.

Progress comes when we understand both our own habits and those of the generations we are trying to lead.

What makes a good work environment for Baby Boomers? Ask the NIH

A lot of HR time is spent figuring out how to attract the best and brightest young talent – what are the perks and expectations that can bring the next workforce stars to your business?  The AARP, however, wanted to know who was doing a good job attracting the bright, experienced talent that is already available in the Baby Boomer generation. In their recent ranking of the Best Employers for Workers over 50, the National Institutes for Health topped the list.

The NIH is joined by four more health care companies in the top five. The AARP attributes the dominance of health care companies on the list to a focus on empathy (the ability of the older generations to understand the needs of an older clientele), the advanced skills of more experienced workers, and the industry’s appreciation that that employees want to live increasingly fuller lives – ones with more flexibility and benefits, an area where health care companies tend to be more progressive.

Of course, the flexibility and benefits prevalent in health care can also be attractive to employees throughout the generational spectrum. In addition, younger minds bring some interesting innovation and fresh perspective. Regardless, the AARP list demonstrates that understanding employees’ core values and changing needs can help a company create an environment where employee engagement and loyalty are more easily achieved. It is this type of approach that can help your business attract and retain employees.

Boomer suicide rate on the rise – generational norms may play a part

The Washington Post published an interesting – and alarming – story about the increase in suicide attempts among the Baby Boomer generation. According to the article, some of this increase follows a natural trend toward suicide among older individuals, however the actual rate of suicide has also increased – in some cases by as much as 50 percent – between 1999 and 2010.

The article goes on to speculate on some of the generational norms that may contribute to this increase. Interestingly, these are the same norms that have shaped how Boomers perform and behave in the workplace. I am not at all speculating that Boomer work ethics and suicide go hand-in-hand – although the article does reference the impact of unemployment and financial distress on those who have had their identities closely tied to their careers and role as providers. No, what stands out to me in this report is how globally influential generational norms can be.

My work focuses on how these norms are changing the workplace, but they are also changing the fabric of society. Always have, always will. Let’s hope the focus of important support resources can help shift this unfortunate effect for the Boomer generation.

Boomers leaving the workforce, but not backing down as consumers

You have to appreciate the irony of a totally younger generation communication tool being used to explain an older generation.  Check out this info graphic/comic  that attempts to convince advertisers and businesses that their traditional target demographics are not aligned with the actual buying power in the country today.

There are so many things I love about this.  As I mentioned, an info graphic is such a Gen X and Millennial way of looking at things – content may be king, but only if it is entertaining!  And yet the comic styling is classic Boomer.  It really is brilliant piece.  And so is the point being made – Boomers are still holding the purse strings in this country and will for years to come.

What this graphic doesn’t touch on, however, is how intertwined Boomer spending is with the desires and priorities of the younger generations.  Millennials, especially, have tremendous influence on the purchases of Boomers.  So perhaps the advertising world doesn’t actually have it so wrong?

Despite warnings, many businesses still not ready for changing of the guard

Secession planning is an important part of any organization’s business strategy, and the onslaught of Baby Boomers entering retirement has been woven into news reports for several years now.  So why did a recent study by executive search firm Odgers Berndston find that nearly 60% of executives surveyed were unprepared for the change?

Turns out they may be ignoring the cultural differences among the generations. That is, while they’ve identified who is leaving and are dutifully transferring business knowledge down the line, they may not be looking at the more subtle – but significant – differences in how each generation views leadership, collaboration, and work ethics.  The result could be messy – not because Gen X (and eventually the Millennials) can’t lead, but because they do it differently.

An organization not prepared for a shift in leadership culture will have its work cut out for it. I’ve been blessed to work with many companies that are truly ahead of the curve in this area.  They’ve had the foresight to make incremental – and sometimes monumental – shifts in culture and even organizational structure as they adapt to a new style of workforce and leadership.

While these organizations are getting themselves in a great position to face the Boomer retirement surge, it is not too late for those businesses that have been content to stay the course and are now headed into stormy waters. A little more frantic, perhaps, but with the right approach you can avoid capsizing.

Social Media, Etiquette, and Common Sense

When I was growing up a popular show on PBS had a song that teased “one of these things is not like the others, one of these things just isn’t the same.”  It’s becoming clear that etiquette, common sense and social media just do not belong in the same sentence and it is affecting the one of the most etiquette-focused areas of the business world: the job interview.

Yes, the “I can’t believe somebody actually did that” HR files include job candidates who have texted or accepted cell phone calls while in an interview, according to this story from USA Today.

Normally I’d take the time to tell you how the generational norms make this understandable, but today I’ve got nothing.  Well, that’s not true.  I can tell you where it comes from but that still doesn’t tell you why they don’t know any better. Sometimes I do join you in SMH. (That’s text for “shaking my head.”)

And for the younger folks out there reading this – turn off the phone when you walk into an interview.  It’s that simple.

Younger Generations Demand a New Experience at Events

While tradeshow and event managers pride themselves on creativity, the basic structure and components of special events have been somewhat tried and true.  A recent report by Amsterdam RAI demonstrates why savvy companies are smart to look at events and event marketing with a whole new light.  Changing demographics = changing demands, and the younger generations have explicit expectations for how they wish to be engaged.  According to the report, Millennials crave engagement and Generation X continues to be skeptical.

This corroborates the experiences of many professional association clients that have expressed frustration with younger generations not attending their flagship events, such as annual conferences, with the same consistency and enthusiasm as their Baby Boomer members have reliably demonstrated for years.  We’re seeing that the difference is directly related to generational values.

For example, Boomers value face time while Gen Xers value personal time.  It stands to reason then, that Boomers will place a priority on gathering with their peers for a week of education and networking while Gen Xers will need to be convinced of reasons to spend several days away from family and friends.

Similarly, while the Boomers place great trust in authority and therefore may be attracted to keynote speakers and marquee presenters, Millennials put more faith in their own experience and will be drawn to events where they can be part of the action.  Hands on learning labs and collaborative activities are likely to increase attendance.

Apply creativity to the event structure, not just the themes, and you may find a greater range of generations present and engaged.

Boomer Housing Sell-off the Next Housing Crisis?

A lot has been written about the effects of Baby Boomers retiring en masse over the next couple of decades – on employers, on markets, on healthcare, etc. Now, a new analysis from the Metropolitan Research Center suggests that aging Boomers selling off their homes will lead to the next big crisis in the housing market.

Over the last few decades of the 20th Century, Boomers drove demand for single-family homes and accounted for most of that market. As they retire, they will begin to sell those homes but the market for them will be considerably smaller.

First, the generation just behind the Boomers, Generation X, is smaller in size. Next, both Gen Xers and Millennials are less keen on single-family homes than their Boomer parents.  Many more of them are interested in urban condos and town houses than previous generations. Finally, those younger generations have less wherewithal to buy a first home, especially the Millennials, who otherwise would have the demographic weight to generate some demand.

The study projects the effects to be felt beginning around 2020. “If there’s 1.5 to 2 million homes coming on the market every year at the end of this decade from senior households selling off,” said one researcher, “who’s behind them to buy? My guess is not enough…. That’s going to hit us. Not right now. But my guess is that about the turn of the decade”

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