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#SAPRadio What You Missed On Enough about Millennials: What Do Boomers Want?

This is the first in a 13-week series of highlights from the broadcasts of HR Trends, a special edition of Coffee Break with Game-Changers on the business channel on Voice of America Internet talk radio. Industry experts will be discussing a variety of topics that are trending in HR today, such as this one on Baby Boomers and their role in today’s enterprise. 


Millennials typically capture the lion share of the headlines, but in this episode of HR Trends, the focus was on Baby Boomers. The expert panel included Richard Eisenberg, a managing editor on PBS’s; Donald Truxillo, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Portland State University in Oregon, and Dr. Gabby Burlacufrom the Cloud Customer Office at SAP.

So what do Boomers want?

The consensus among the panelists was that Baby Boomers are not ready to retire and they still have a lot to offer employers. But if employers want to retain Boomers and take advantage of their deep level of skills and knowledge, they need to do more for them.

In organizations where people feel supported there is increased productivity and reduced turnover – and this is true for employees of all ages. But “feeling supported” must be pervasive throughout the organization, managed from the top, in alignment with corporate goals throughout the organization, and be supported by consistent policies.

It’s all about retaining good workers, no matter what the generation. As Dr. Burlacu shares in this discussion, it’s less about looking at supposed irreconcilable differences between generations, and more about understanding how to engage employees of all ages. 

What kind of support do Boomers need?

Here’s the advice the expert panelists shared for enterprises that are committed to supporting Boomers (and the other generations) in the workforce:

  • Create generational – and cross-generational – training programs. This will not only help bring the Boomers and Millennials together in collaborative day-to-day working, but it will also provide for greater understanding on both sides as to what motivates them in the workplace. These programs can also provide cross-mentoring opportunities that can elicit knowledge sharing and building skills based on the generation, such as social media training for Baby Boomers.
  • Make work meaningful. Employees of all ages want to feel like they are getting meaning out of work and that they making a difference notes Eisenberg. And as HR knows, the happier the employee, the more engaged they are.
  • Understand generational motivation. It’s also important to keep in mind that what Baby Boomers are looking for in a job may not be what Millennials are seeking. Older workers want to apply the skills they’ve accumulated throughout the years because they are more interested in the intrinsic aspects of their work says Truxillo.
  • Keep work relevant. Baby Boomers want to feel that their work fits into the broader company strategy and they need to understand how they are helping the company move towards its goals. Related to this, Burlacu adds that the organization and managers need to have an understanding of an employee’s strengths and match job assignments to those skills.

The crystal ball: What’s in store for Boomers in 2020?

Here are the experts’ predictions for Baby Boomers six years from now:

  • Mr. Eisenberg believes the concept of encore careers will be catching on, with people starting second careers in their sixties and seventies and where the motivation is not only a paycheck, but purpose too.
  • Professor Truxillo sees more research on interventions coming, where there’s a greater understanding of what’s effective for older workers; he also sees technology – such as touchpads – helping older workers stay on the job longer.
  • Dr. Burlacu says that by 2020 there will be more enterprises appreciating – as they are beginning to today – the value of older workers. She also predicts that perceptions and practices around a “normal” workforce will change as companies strive to make multigenerational workforces successfully managed in the future.

No worker segment – whether it’s generational or some other segmentation – works in a vacuum, notes Burlacu. It’s important for HR to recognize and understand the different dynamics of all employee groups so that each group can properly be understood, supported, and nurtured for a more cohesive, productive workforce.

You can hear the full broadcast on Baby Boomers here, including a discussion of what an employer’s responsibility is regarding Boomer career progression, retirement, and more. You can listen live or access the archive here.

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