Managerial blindspot: accommodating the shifting age demographics of the workforce

We all know that the baby boomers and Generation X are rubbish and must shoulder the blame for all that ails the Earth and mankind today  – pollution, financial crises, war, social injustice; if in doubt, blame the preceding generation.

However, there’s one thing at which the baby boomers excel – living, and working, longer. The number of economically active people aged 65 or over is projected to increase by one third over the next decade (The Future of Work: Jobs and Skills in 2030 report from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills), and this is throwing up yet another sphere of headache/opportunity debate for managers of talent.

Managers need to be prepared for ongoing shifts in the demographic profile of the workforce and avoid stereotyping; it’s very easy to focus on the Millennials or the entry of the digital natives of Generation Z into the workforce, but it’s essential to address, evaluate, and benefit from the longevity of the workforce’s baby boomers.Managing demographic diversity is going to become an increasingly important consideration to avoid potential discrimination, reap the benefit of the workforce and, potentially, offset skills shortages.

Employees from this older demographic can help companies in many ways; they can help to nurture younger talent by becoming mentors and coaches;providing informal learning more tailored to the individual in the workplace. This transmission of skills and knowledge can be the essential ingredient that turns a promising young starter into a mature and valued long term employee.

It’s very important, however, that the older employees are not left out of the development loop for themselves. One third of older employees aged 55 to 65 want their development potential to be recognized through receiving informal praise and recognition, but managers are most likely to describe Millennials (18-24 year olds) as the ones seeking regular praise and feedback (source: Penna).

This lengthening work cycle-properly managed – appears to offer employers many more opportunities than it does drawbacks.

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