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Engaging Baby Boomers on Your Workforce

Employees’ dedication speaks volumes to clients and customers. Not to be clichéd, but a company's employees truly are its greatest asset! Most leaders understand this connection on an intellectual level, but they often struggle with what to do to foster this type of dedication. To engage Baby Boomers on your staff, you'll want to consider the following:

  • Foster a non-authoritarian work environment. Boomers don't like being told what to do. An authoritarian culture will meet resistance at best, and disengagement at worst. At this stage of their careers, Boomers are set in their ways. They have — or believe they have — accomplished a lot. Not surprisingly, a democratic leadership style goes a long way toward engaging Boomers.

  • Tap into their experience. Ask questions like the following:

    • “So, what do you suggest?”

    • “How have you done this in the past?”

    • “What has worked best when you've tried to do this?”

    • “How would you recommend we proceed?”

    Asking these and related questions will engage Boomers. It shows respect for their years in the trenches.

  • Offer fresh assignments and other development opportunities. After years of climbing the corporate ladder, Boomers may be interested in lateral or even lower-level positions — if the positions will allow them to do new jobs or learn new skills. Shifting assignments will also boost innovation, because it invites new and different perspectives.

  • Be aware of the challenges they face. Many Boomers wrestle with various personal challenges, such as paying college tuition for their children, subsidizing older children, and/or taking care of aging parents.

    In addition, some Boomers may be experiencing their own medical issues for the first time. Managers who are empathetic about all the things Boomers must juggle in their complex lives will be rewarded over time with above-and-beyond effort.

  • Foster collaboration. The idealism that encouraged many of this generation to boycott the Vietnam War still kindles a desire to be part of “something bigger.” As such, Boomers tend to be highly engaged by working in partnership or as part of a team.

  • Encourage expression. Boomers enjoy opportunities for expression. They're among the ranks of workers who are truly engaged by meetings — especially when said meetings involve the exchange of ideas that intrigue them.

  • Engage in CSR. To engage Boomers, encourage social activism, volunteerism, and CSR activities. As Chapter 6 discusses, Boomers are looking for ways to give back.

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