Who Needs Retirement?
For decades, companies have focused on grooming younger workers for future leadership roles. That way, a key executive could be replaced as soon as the retirement cake was cut and eaten. But times have changed, according to human-resource expert Nancy Ahlrichs. In the years to come, there will not be enough so-called “wunderkinds” to replace their mature counterparts.
To solve this workplace crisis, Ahlrichs advocates that businesses take another look at their Veterans and Boomers in Igniting Gen B&V: The New Rules of Engagement for Boomers, Veterans, and Other Long- Termers on the Job. The goal is to keep these employees in the work force, look for ways to stimulate their already rock-solid work ethic and offer incentives beyond the outdated “Best Attendance” award.
More Than Strong Work Ethics
Ahlrichs writes that many employers have made the mistake of believing Boomers and Veterans –– some of their best workers –– are motivated simply by strong work ethics. While that may be true for some, it will not cover everyone. Instead, she recommends that companies should motivate workers to want to do more than their job descriptions require them to do. Unless employees are truly engaged in their work and the company itself, the author argues that they are just showing up for the paycheck –– this includes Boomers and Veterans.
Ahlrichs claims that these trusted and valuable employees deserve the same treatment their younger peers receive. That means Boomers, just like Generation Xers, want mentors, high-profile projects and a well-defined career path –– even if they have been with the company for decades.
Sticking Around and Adding Value
In this book, statistics tell much of the story –– in the United States, nearly 50 percent of workers are in the Boomer of Veteran generation. And when 77 million Baby Boomers retire, only 56 million members of Generation X will be there to replace them. Of these groups, Boomers tend to stick around the longest. While a Gen X or Y employee might leave in one to three years, a Boomer will work at an organization for about 10 years or more. As a result, Boomers and Veterans are the backbone of most U.S. companies. They probably know the business, its customers and its mission better than anyone else at the organization. Retaining these employees saves companies money when it comes to recruiting, orientation and training.
So how do you do you ignite these older generations? You start by making them feel needed, Ahlrichs writes. They want managers and co-workers to seek their advice and expertise. Yet they also want the same training, learning experiences and/or opportunities to cross-train for new or multiple positions within the company as younger workers.
Although much of this work to ignite Boomers and Veterans falls on managers, plenty also needs to be done within the human resource department, Ahlrichs believes. She writes that HR specialists especially must be trained in ways to interview Boomers and Veterans, especially if that potential hire is older than the person conducting the interview.
Motivation Is Key
Other motivators may already exist in a workplace, but many companies may not be using them as incentives for their more mature workers. This includes flexible schedules, opportunities to telecommute, time off to spend with children or grandchildren, tuition reimbursements to go back to school and other ways to balance work and life.
Another major source of motivation is feedback. Ahlrichs firmly believes in one-on-one reviews, which should be done throughout the year. But she also recommends regular surveys of the general employee population. This feedback can then help the organization “correct its course” if needed. Because Veterans and Boomers are working hard to redefine themselves, this is the ideal time for companies to take a long look at the way they work with these employees, Ahlrichs writes. Finding ways to keep these generations in the office a few years longer could make the retirement cake a thing of the past.