Whether it is due to fears about the economy, finally getting tired of the corporate grind, or simply a desire to stay busy in retirement, it seems more and more Baby Boomers are putting on the entrepreneur’s cap. In fact, the Rapid City Journal recently profiled a Boomer entrepreneur whose bright idea for business is a support service company specifically for helping Boomer entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground. Talk about niche. And yet he already has 50 businesses signed up.
What does this trend mean to your business? Are you losing experienced professionals because they are ready to do something that is more personal and meaningful? If so, consider how you can adapt their role within your organization to become more flexible or collaborative. Many established Boomer professionals are happy to shift to a consulting role, for example, with more flexibility to work on special projects and with flexible schedules. They get to maintain their status as knowledgeable experts while rolling up their sleeves to work on something new and creative.
If keeping Boomers is not your challenge, perhaps this trend toward entrepreneurialism is an opportunity for your company to serve an unmet need. Like the gentlemen in Rapid City, is there something your business can offer that will help Boomer entrepreneurs quickly establish and grow their business? Most entrepreneurs are good at what they do – the idea behind their company – but not necessarily at building and running a company in general. From taxes to technology, marketing to payroll, consider where your business can provide added value. Then keep your ears open for Boomers talking about side businesses that may actually be more than hobby.
The folks at BuzzFeed got a lot of response to a recent post about the small slice of young adults caught between the associated norms of the Millennials and Generation X. So much reaction, in fact, that they decided to run a poll and let the members of the group name itself. If you were born between 1975 and 1982, what do you think your generational name should be?
Now, mind you, I don’t think this is a very necessary task. Generations always blur at the edges and generational norms are just that – norms. No single person is defined solely by the collective characteristics of those who happen to share his or her birth year. Of course not. But norms exist because society changes and the experiences you have in your formative years make an impact. A generation experiences history in a collective way and it has a collective impact.
So while generations are grouped in birth-year spreads, the science is certainly not exact. More accurately, generational norms are a continuous spectrum. But that makes it whole lot harder to write catchy cover headlines for TIME.
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.
This is terrific. Also bordering on narcissistic and indulgent, but mostly terrific.
If you aren’t tempted to click the link just because I said it’s terrific, here’s a preview. The link takes you to CNN where a young Gen X editorial cartoonist (and Pulitzer-prize finalist) takes on the Millennial-bashing and analyzing that he feels is bringing down the greatest generation.
As someone who makes a living analyzing the generations and helping businesses understand how they work – and work together – I’d take offense to the rant, except he is correct. We have been looking at and fretting over differences in the generations forever. But that is because each generation IS different, and how we communicate with them and bring the best out of them continues to change. The analysis is not new; what we are learning is.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The first rule of advertising is to know your target audience. The second rule should be a no-brainer: don’t actively offend them. Somewhere on the way to being creative Bloomberg Businessweek advertisers seem to have forgotten rule number two.
In a “funny if it didn’t happen to you” subscription campaign, the Bloomberg affiliate encourages parents, friends and family members of Millennials to send the young workforce a pithy e-card and a 12-month subscription to Businessweek. Problem is, the e-cards appeared more pithy to the givers than to the intended recipients.
What I find particularly odd about this campaign is that the website also features a link to a Businessweek article that explains how the rough economy has made more Millennials return to their parents’ homes. So they’ve done their home work. If the reporting says “it’s tough out there for a kid” why construct an ad campaign that says “get with the program already?”
This campaign is further undermined by the lack of attention to rule number one. While it may have targeted the pocketbooks of the word-of-mouth influencers, the campaign was attempting to gain new customers in the form of Millennials – a generation raised on effusive praise and idealistic views. A sarcastic blow delivered by friends and family with the help of a magazine seems an odd way to win friends and influence people. Go-getter Millennials – the ones more likely to subscribe to Bloomberg Businessweek – affected by the recession aren’t likely to find the humor in the campaign, and those that really need the tough love? Well, they aren’t as likely to be offended…or motivated.
Came across this commentary on inspiring Millennial employees in Forbes the other day and thought it was worth sharing. The theory and tips and “story behind the story” of managing across the generations that our team provides to clients around the country is important. But sometimes it’s helpful to hear it straight from the folks in the trenches figuring out how to make things work. This guy gets it – and what’s even better, he admits he didn’t always get it. Change can lead to good things.
Author Ty Kiisel confirms the experiences I’ve had over the years and what I’ve seen clients and peers come to realize. But his third point made me pause. Take a look (emphasis is mine):
Don’t depend on where you are within the organizational hierarchy: Of course this might change as the millennial generation gets older and starts to enjoy the perks associated with organizational hierarchy. I hope that doesn’t happen. It may be a pipe dream, but I hope the perks associated with leading an organization come more in line with the perks associated with working in an organization. There are CEOs, some I’ve really come to respect over the years, who claim that what they do is just a different role and not any more important than any other role in the organization.
Millennials have shown a great tendency toward equal rights in the political and social realms. As they gain more and more positions of leadership (the eldest are just in their early 30s) – especially as they rise in the ranks of corporate America – will their fundamental value for equality stay with them when it comes to salary and organizational structures? Or will they primarily avoid that conflict by avoiding the corporate ranks all together? It is a fascinating question.
My only insight – not scientifically relevant at all – is my time at the St. Gallen’s Symposium in Switzerland a while back where most of the Leaders of Tomorrow voted that the banking industry is the one that causes most of the disparities we see in our society today yet the majority of them also stated they were interested in getting into banking due to the opportunities to make big money. They seemed to say “disparity is a problem but as long as the problem in known and allowed and makes people big money, I want in.” And I couldn’t help but notice that the majority of corporate sponsors for the event were banks and that many of the bank CEOs that attended flew in on private jets.