As marketers can attest, the newest and shiniest products tend to get the most attention, writes Jacques van Wyk, chief operating officer of Ricoh SA.
It’s the same with the multi-generational workforce, as the spotlight now beams brightest on Generation Z (those currently aged 19 years and younger). Yet, while Generation Zs’ expectations are forcing business leaders to consider how the entire staff pool not only co-exists but collaborates more effectively (and rightly so), the role of Baby Boomers is taking on a new dimension.
Baby Boomers possess hardened experience, vast knowledge and significant exposure to decades of market and business-led change. Now aged 51 and above, they typically occupy the most senior positions in a company. As chief decision makers they are perfectly placed to identify the obstacles, opportunities and pitfalls on the horizon – and crucially, know how to best negotiate them.
While their extensive expertise and business know-how is both acknowledged and respected by younger groups, it is widely believed that Baby Boomers are the least technically minded of the four generations now in employment. And the research we commissioned Ricoh into the 4G workplace (four generations in the workplace) found some evidence to support this view.
They are the least likely to use methods such as e-mailing or even phoning someone to communicate at work. In fact, only 12% of them prefer communicating via e-mail, compared to 24% of Generation X (those currently aged between 35 and 50). This stands to reason, given how subsequent generations have had increasingly sophisticated digital upbringings.
Interestingly, Baby Boomers’ workplace priorities are different, too. With some coming towards the end of their careers and others facing a decade or more in employment, Baby Boomers are more concerned about the future of their job than factors such as company perks, working in an attractive office, or feeling like they are making a difference.
In fact, the survey we commissioned found job security as the most cited factor keeping them at their company. In comparison with the other generations, Baby Boomers also put more value on having a high degree of autonomy over having a higher salary.
This means that in an era of unprecedented technology-led change, Baby Boomers are ideally placed to ensure a state of stability while permitting new initiatives that are imperative for the future success of the business – namely digitisation and automation programmes. In this respect, they are the gatekeepers of the analogue to digital age.
Baby Boomers are the backbone of the 4G workplace – and their role is much more than that of the elder statesman. The experience they have is priceless; not least when it comes to assessing the implications of introducing subtle and radical change to drive the business forward.
The task for businesses now is to adopt truly inclusive and accessible internal platforms, where experiences and ideas can be shared in an instant. This will form the hotbed for more effective collaboration between all generations, while laying the foundations for new and innovative ways of working.