Baby boomers and Gen Y – using social networking to bridge the gap

May 7, 2010
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One of the most significant changes organizations will face over the next decade will take place as baby boomers prepare to retire and Gen Y comes on board. Organizations, smart ones anyway, are asking tough questions like this one:

What intellectual property (IP), knowledge, and “know-how” is walking out the door when baby boomers retire?

Seriously, give this one some thought. Whether you’re an executive, manager, or consultant, think about how the answer to this question will impact your organization, your clients. Over the next decade, there will be a significant change in the demographics of America’s workforce as baby boomers retire, leaving younger workers with less experience to fill their place and leaving many businesses unprepared. There’s a real sense of urgency with this business problem.

Let’s look at Gen Y for a moment. I like Jason Young’s August 2009 simple and concise blog post where he identifies 10 Key Gen Y Characteristics.

  1. Continually connected
  2. Speak their own language
  3. Skeptical of authority
  4. Influenced by peers
  5. Seek recognition and fame
  6. Enjoy absurdity and off humor
  7. Embrace subcultures

One of the most significant changes organizations will face over the next decade will take place as baby boomers prepare to retire and Gen Y comes on board. Organizations, smart ones anyway, are asking tough questions like this one:

What intellectual property (IP), knowledge, and “know-how” is walking out the door when baby boomers retire?

Seriously, give this one some thought. Whether you’re an executive, manager, or consultant, think about how the answer to this question will impact your organization, your clients. Over the next decade, there will be a significant change in the demographics of America’s workforce as baby boomers retire, leaving younger workers with less experience to fill their place and leaving many businesses unprepared. There’s a real sense of urgency with this business problem.

Let’s look at Gen Y for a moment. I like Jason Young’s August 2009 simple and concise blog post where he identifies 10 Key Gen Y Characteristics.

  1. Continually connected
  2. Speak their own language
  3. Skeptical of authority
  4. Influenced by peers
  5. Seek recognition and fame
  6. Enjoy absurdity and off humor
  7. Embrace subcultures
  8. Skim text and information quickly
  9. Easily bored
  10. Expressive and digitally creative

Generation Y (born 1981-1999 and approximately 80 million in North America) celebrate diversity; they are optimistic, inventive and individualistic; they rewrite the rules; they enjoy a pleasurable lifestyle; they don’t see the relevance of most institutions; they are masters of technology and social media; were nurtured by their parents; see friends as family; like a collaborative supportive work environment and interactive work relationships; have high demands and expectations; want to work for companies that are socially responsible and they want a balanced life (Ray Williams. Why Are You Not Like Me? The Generational Gap In The Workplace. Psychology Today, September 2009).

As companies realize what’s at stake with baby boomers leaving the workforce, and begin to understand Gen Y, companies should be asking questions such as:

  • How do we retain the baby boomer IP?
  • How might we keep baby boomers engaged to continue to provide valuable insights and information?
  • How might we capture, extract, glean what the baby boomers know before they leave?
  • How might we use social technologies to bridge the gap between baby boomers and next generation leaders?
  • How might we leverage Gen Y’s comfort and mastery of technology and social media to bridge the information gap between both generations?

Change agents that have the savvy skills and connectedness to help companies face these challenges—extracting IP from baby boomers, addressing generational differences, and using social networking and technologies to bridge the information gap—will no doubt impact the bottom line.