The end of the boomers
I’m the guy who’s supposed to close the door behind me as the Baby Boomers make their way through the world of work.
I was born in what most generational researchers identify as the last year for boomers. Some researchers have even put me in Generation X. Often I feel like I have a leg in each generation.
Us young Boomers will work another 10 to 15 years, and maybe more if retirement accounts aren’t where they should be, and the retirement age continues to creep up.
Boomers are still in charge
It also means that many organizations will be led by Boomers for this same time period. We will be the senior members of the team, and it’s common for those who have been around longest to be sitting in the organization’s most powerful chairs.
What will Boomers do with their last decade of organizational control? I’m afraid they will make decisions that will irritate most of their employees.
Boomers have always viewed themselves as the big generation. Their size alone justified an expectation that the world be set up to meet their needs. Heck, their name alone implies that we should notice them. BOOM.
Because of that long history, I worry that we Boomers might be slow to catch on to basic demographic facts.
Generational makeup of U.S. labor force
We are no longer the big dogs at work, at least not based on our numbers. Our clout, due to our numbers, peaked in 1997, and it’s been waning ever since.
And check out this little nugget. As of 2015, Boomers have slipped into third place. Ouch.
Pew Research provides the labor force generational numbers you need to know:
There are still 44.6 million boomers in the U.S. labor force, but their numbers are falling fast.
Generation X has 52.7 million and their numbers are flat and will likely stay that way until people my age start to retire.
The Millenials (those 34 and younger) have now won the prize as the biggest portion of the U.S. labor force at 53.5 million, and their numbers will continue to steadily increase until they’ve all graduated and started work.
The Boomers have a choice to make
As most everyone acknowledges and often bitterly complains about, there are distinct differences in how older and younger workers do their jobs.
The Boomers who are running things have an important decision to make. Should they promote policies and practices that align with their own values and preferences, or cater to the larger portion of the workforce?
Knowing our propensity as humans to make ourselves comfortable, I suspect us Boomers will make the wrong choice.
Leaders will need to make a choice that may work against their own comfort…
- If they want to attract and retain talent.
- If they want to maintain employee satisfaction.
- If they want a productive workforce.
It will be interesting to see if they do.