Baby Boomers Characteristics in the Workplace

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Written By Kevin

The insights I gained over the years help me lead and motivate teams to achieve business and operational goals. Allow me to share my learnings with you.

For over 50 years, baby boomers have been a driving force in the workplace. Born between 1945 and 1964, this generation grew up in a post-war era of prosperity and opportunity. Today, most of them are well into their 50s, 60s, and even 70s, yet many baby boomers continue to work actively rather than enter full retirement. Their vast experience and knowledge offer tremendous value to companies across industries. 

With that said, however, to leverage the unique strengths of baby boomer employees, managers and leaders must first understand what makes them tick. After all, the key to being an inclusive leader is recognizing the unique strengths of each generation, adapting your management style to motivate all employees accordingly, and promoting mutual learning across generations.

In this article we’ll take a look at baby boomers characteristics, behaviors and attitudes that they  commonly exhibit at work. Appreciating where they are coming from will enable you to motivate them, gain their buy-in, and optimize their contributions. 

Key Characteristics of Baby Boomer Employees

With longevity comes wisdom. Baby boomers have seen it all, from economic booms and busts, to technological disruption, and societal changes. They’ve survived multiple recessions and adapted their skills to stay relevant in an ever-evolving workplace. 

So, far from being out of touch, baby boomers have perspectives that can enhance any team in your organization.

This section will explore the key characteristics of baby boomers in the workplace and we’ll give some tips for leveraging these qualities in your organization. 

Hard Working and Dedicated

A standout quality of baby boomer employees is their strong work ethic and dedication. Having entered the workforce at a time of great growth and opportunity (post-WWII), they were instilled early on with the mentality that hard work pays off. Sacrifice and “paying one’s dues” were seen as necessary steps to advance in a career.

Unlike younger generations today, baby boomers do not expect or pursue the same level of work-life balance. They are used to working long hours, weekends, and going above and beyond without complaint. 

For many, their identity is tied to what they do professionally. Delayed gratification to achieve goals down the road is ingrained in who they are.

Take Linda, 60, who has worked as an accountant at the same firm for over 40 years. Despite her age and experience, Linda still routinely puts in 50-hour workweeks without being asked. She firmly believes that continued face-time, effort, and availability are keys to receiving promotions and recognition at work.

While such dedication is admirable, managers must also encourage baby boomers to take time to recharge. Burnout and health consequences can result from an overzealous work ethic. 

Reinforce the importance of vacation time and disconnecting outside work hours. Everyone performs better when given opportunities to refresh and reset.

Competitive and Motivated

Baby boomers are a remarkably driven and competitive cohort. Having grown up in the prosperous 1950s and 60s, they view status, seniority, and moving up the corporate ladder as key measures of success. 

Many workers of this generation remain hungry to reach the next level years into their careers.

Prestige is also paramount to baby boomers, who constantly benchmark themselves against peers and diligently network to make the right connections. 

Robert, for example, is a 58 year old lawyer, who aggressively networks both inside and outside his law firm to ensure senior partners and clients know of his accomplishments. He does this strategically to position himself for further promotion in the coming year.

Loyal and Reliable

Loyalty is another hallmark characteristic of baby boomer employees. Unlike Millennials and Gen Z, they do not job hop and instead tend to stick with one employer for their entire career.

Joan is a perfect example of this. Just turning 61, she has been working for the same hospitality company for 42 years. She started as a front desk agent straight out of high school and steadily worked her way up to General Manager of a 500-room resort. Joan bleeds the brand, speaks about the company with immense pride, and is the face of its excellent service culture.

Such longevity and institutional knowledge are incredibly valuable. However, managers should encourage openness to new opportunities both within and outside the company so baby boomers don’t feel trapped.

Goal-Oriented and Tenacious

Baby boomers love structure, checkpoints, and clear objectives against which to measure progress. Given their competitive drive, they are motivated most by projects with tangible deliverables that boost their standing.

They also don’t quit in the face of obstacles. Tapping into this goal-focused determination can bring tremendous results. However, managers should also encourage flexibility and collaboration with colleagues who may have fresher approaches.

Managing a Multigenerational Workforce

So, baby boomers offer tremendous institutional knowledge, however, their more traditional mindsets may cause friction with younger, more progressive employees within the organization. 

This section provides tips for managers seeking to build cohesive teams across generations. Strategies that can keep baby boomer employees engaged while also embracing fresh approaches from millennials and Gen Z. 

After all, by fostering an environment where all generations feel valued for their contributions creates a diverse talent mix that can give your organization a competitive edge.

Offer Recognition and Praise

To keep baby boomer employees motivated and engaged, be sure to publicly recognize their achievements, loyalty, and benefit to the company. Given how much they value status and appreciation, praise and validation from leadership can go a long way.

To be honest statistics show that creating a culture of recognition at the worplace is beneficial across the whole organization. So this is something you should be doing already with all generation of workers.

During company meetings or annual reviews, call out their tenure, wisdom, and contributions to collective success. Send personalized emails or notes thanking them for their hard work and dedication. Make them feel valued for all they have done and continue to do for the organization.

Provide Clear Goals and Benchmarks

Baby boomers appreciate structure and regular progress markers, so provide projects tailored to their task-driven nature. Lay out expected milestones, check-ins, and targets to hit. 

Recognize wins along the way, not just the final outcome.

Promote Inclusion and Camaraderie

Also, promote connections between baby boomers and younger colleagues. Instituting mentorship programs can enable boomers to pass along institutional knowledge while also learning fresh perspectives from millennials and Gen Z.

Organizing joint volunteering events or social gatherings helps foster mutual understanding and camaraderie between generations. Everyone has something to learn from each other.

Encourage Work-Life Balance

Finally, remind baby boomers by words and example that taking vacation time and maintaining work-life balance is critical for health and preventing burnout. Their tireless work ethic can be self-destructive if unchecked.

Check in regularly and have candid discussions about workload and stress management. Lead from the top by modeling reasonable work hours, disconnecting on evenings and weekends, and taking your own refreshing breaks.

Conclusion

Baby boomers offer tremendous value in today’s multigenerational workforce. Their experience, institutional knowledge, and tireless work ethic contribute immense benefits to companies wise enough to retain and leverage this talent.

However, managing and motivating baby boomer employees requires understanding and appreciating their unique characteristics:

  1. They are extremely hard working and dedicated, willing to put in long hours without work-life balance.
  2. They are competitive go-getters constantly pushing for more responsibility and accolades.
  3. They are loyal and reliable, sticking with one employer for their entire careers.
  4. They are goal-oriented and hate to quit before the job is done.

Keep these traits in mind when structuring projects to incentivize and get the best from your baby boomers. 

The most successful organizations maintain an age-diverse workforce, valuing the collective strengths of boomers, Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z alike. Tap into the experience of your older employees while also embracing fresh approaches from younger voices. This blend of perspectives and talents will benefit everyone.

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