Likely you have heard a lot about the stereotypical millennial and the stereotypical baby-boomer. Although they can be categorized, the real value of understanding the two groups is how well they can work together under the optimum environment.
Throughout the US there are roughly 66-million baby-boomers. Most of the people in this group anticipate retirement within the next 5-10 years. With the financial system, however, and namely its instability throughout the past 10 years, added to the growing desire to engage in meaningful and impactful work, a new trend of baby-boomers is developing. This group is intent on working longer and developing encore careers in later years.
Organizations such as Encore.org are established to follow those encore careers of baby-boomers who are well-versed in the business world. After decades of honing knowledge, building wisdom and developing skills, they are able to put them to use in businesses and on projects that they personally are invested in- the projects that truly bring meaning to their lives. This is causing more baby-boomers to stay in the work force beyond the traditional age of retirement.
The other group is the Millennials. They are comprised of about 90-million people. They are highly tech-savvy and can be idealistic. They also can be difficult for the older work force to work with. What is interesting to note however is that with baby-boomers extending their work lifespan, they are going to be working side by side with Millennials more and more.
Rather than succumbing to an uncomfortable work place, a different view can be taken. In this one, it is evident to see the powerful and exciting opportunities possible due to the overlapping of the two groups and their wants and needs. Looking at what they have to offer is key to understanding the success of the dynamic.
What Gives Them Energy?
At the center of the Millennial’s energy is their potential:
- They are able to work hard when they have the proper motivation. This includes long hours, intense focus and taking on a wide range of tasks.
- Openness to new work. Millennials haven’t experienced the bad side of work yet. They aren’t accustomed or jaded on what doesn’t work and that makes them open to trying everything.
- They want to improve the world, both for themselves and for future generations. They have a genuine desire to make things better.
- They desire mentors who can help to guide them and give them clear insight into what mistakes to avoid as a means of maximizing their contributions and their development progress.
- They grew up with technology so they have an in depth and innate understanding of it. They know how technology works and are used to incorporating it into their daily lives.
At the center of the baby-boomer’s energy is their experience:
- They have decades of learning to work with so they have an understanding of what works and what doesn’t. This is innate to their workmanship.
- They can be leery about technology and its capabilities. Also, they can be hesitant about allowing it into their lives to take care of tasks, preferring to do things manually.
- They want the world to improve for their grandchildren and their children.
- They are looking for ways to positively affect the world and pass along their wisdom to others.
- They have garnered much wisdom from the world that is a result of decades of living and managing projects, career decisions, experiences and relationships.
It is clear to see that the matching up of the two groups is a fantastic solution-creating tool. Here is how it would officially work:
Rather than accepting the differences of baby-boomers and Millennials, it is important to see what they can do together and how powerful a coupling they are.
The importance of General Communication Should be Stressed.
This is very important. Over-communicating is much better than under-communicating. The goal of the joint ventures between the two groups is to thoroughly communicate about everything—especially including difficult situations that can cause anxiousness, impatience, confusion or frustration.
- Focus on the baby-boomer’s experience with various relationships to stress their confidence with discussing issues with the Millennial.
- Appeal to the Millennial’s sense of personal growth and development to discuss their experienced thoughts and emotions with the baby-boomer.
It is important to contextualize projects as they relate to specific goals.
This means to focus on the reason “why” behind the mission, rather than focusing on the how. It focuses on the shared sense of purpose that both groups are consistently seeking.
One example of this is to consider the statement “Our task is to judge how effective urban gardens are to communities.” Versus the statement “Our goal is to decide whether or not the free installation of various urban gardens throughout the city truly aids low-income families to eat healthier diets or not. We have an eight-month period to do our assessment. The results are important because if they are not effective then foundation dollars can be allocated somewhere else next year. If the results are effective, then we have created a national model to roll out to other cities. This task presents the chance to make a worthwhile contribution to the country."
Setting The Dynamic As Beyond Hierarchal
Baby-boomers and millennials have to work together to find the best methods of achieving end goals. At times each group needs to lead and others need to follow. The hierarchal view is no longer relevant; rather there is no leader. With this dynamic, they need to build trust by understanding each other and the weaknesses and strengths involved.
Open The Door For Two-Way Learning
No longer is one group in place to teach the other. The baby-boomer should share their perspective based on their experience, while contextualizing it for the millennial with specific ways in which the approach can work. The baby-boomer can work to proactively think about the Millennial’s talents and weaknesses to suggest the best way to leverage natural assets.
Also, the Millennial can open the door for baby-boomers to use web tools, software and business models that would aid in solving the project in ways that are easily understood.
The natural synergy of baby-boomers and Millennials would foster success, allowing the groups to play off of each other’s inner strengths and capabilities. If you are looking for the best talent to improve your team, contact ICS today for help!