Friday, May 2, 2014

Worker Bees

My Sweet Irreplaceable You

Final score….73 to 48. That’s 73 million baby boomers and 48 million GenXers. If all the baby boomers left the labor market at the same time, the American economy could not sustain itself.

Wow! Makes you want to quit tomorrow if it weren’t for the negative consequences. But seriously, this is serious. It’s not a question of experience or competence, it’s just plain arithmetic. As large numbers of boomers leave the workforce, there are not enough employees to take their place.

Employers may have to reach down to the farm team level to tap Gen Yers (born between 1980 and 2000), but there’s a big concern about whether they are ready and whether their work culture will clash big time with the remaining boomers.

While boomers are typically obsessed with their work, Gen Yers generally seek a greater balance between work and life interests. Often characterized as high performance and high maintenance, they lack the experience of even Gen Xers. Bottom line, the Yers will have a tough time filling the shoes of the more seasoned baby boomers.

Experts are telling employers that the next 10 years could be a very rocky road if they are unable to hold onto the talent they already have. The successful businesses will find a way to keep employees engaged and committed to the company’s goals, but after years of downsizing and merger-acquisition frenzies, that’s easier said than done. Plus, the burgeoning start-ups are looking to poach the Gen Xer talent from more established businesses, making the remaining baby boomers even more valuable workers.

Articles about boomers staying on the job well past conventional retirement age are now a weekly staple. Just recently I read about an 81 year-old bartender and an 82 year-old waiter working at the same restaurant. They didn’t want to sit around at home and get fat and they liked coming to work, even if it was only part-time. Youthful workers at the other end of the spectrum just don’t see it that way, and if you think that’s not your problem, remember, we need them to cover our social security benefits.

In any case, I’m beginning to feel a little bit like Sally Field when she accepted her Oscar. “You like me. You really like me.”

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.