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Now is Not the Time to Retire – What Does This Mean for Managers?

by Diane Thielfoldt & Devon Scheef

Never has it been more important to prepare managers to lead the multi-generational workforce. Why? Because with the recent financial turmoil and the loss of retirement savings, Baby Boomers (b. 1946-1964) are choosing to stay in the workplace longer and Silents (b. 1933-1945) are returning to the workforce. As a result, we will continue to have four generations working side-by-side for the foreseeable future.

Last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that older employees are staying in their jobs longer and/or returning to the workplace from retirement. The number of full-time workers over the age of 65 jumped to 56% in 2007. In 1995 it was 44%. With the current financial situation, it is likely that this number will soar even higher in the coming years.

Following up on the BLS report, we asked Boomers if their plans for retirement had changed due to recent events. One responded “[I’ll] probably delay retirement until housing prices go back up.” Another responded similarly, “[I] lost thousands in Thrift. [I] was ready to hit the road as soon as I was eligible. Now, [I’m] not so certain.”

We also asked Gen Xers and Millennials how the current economic situation is affecting them. Xers said, “The current financial situation has made me reconsider my debt and investment strategies,” and “Yes, the current financial crisis has already begun to affect me personally. With the government providing a TSP, which won’t be sufficient upon retirement, the onus falls upon me to find viable alternatives for saving/raising money for my retirement.”

Millennials reported less of a financial impact due to a “…lack of accumulated wealth,” though some said they are, “…cutting back on the amount of times [they] eat out and go out.” Millennials we talked with were more concerned with their “…parents’ jobs and financial situation,” and were “…skeptical about the future…the economy/housing market as so many have been burned and hurt by it.”

What do these changes mean for you and your organization? How will they affect your efforts to recruit and hire talent, and to successfully on-board not only younger employees, but also more experienced employees? Do your managers have the skill sets needed to coach employees with a wide range of perspectives, expertise, and knowledge? Are your managers able to engage emerging talent as effectively as tenured employees?

The four-generation workforce isn’t going away anytime soon. Millennials, Xers, Boomers, and Silents—all four generations—will continue to place demands on employers and managers. It has never been more important than now for your managers to understand how to recruit, develop, and motivate the four different generations of employees and to create a workplace environment that maximizes everyone’s contributions.