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The Massive Workforce Shift: Bridging the Gap Between Millennials and Boomers

June 10, 2011 - 1 Comment

As 80 million Baby Boomers shift into retirement, 80 million Millennials (born 1980-95) take center stage as our next-generation workforce.  This massive shift is changing the way work gets done as this new cohort brings a different mindset with expectations for a different work environment than the one know and loved by Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, and Gen Xers.

While the recession is shaping the Millennial attitude, a recent study commissioned by the Career Advisory Board1 indicated that “both Millennials and their managers agree on the strengths (e.g. digital comfort) and weaknesses (e.g. impatience with established processes) of the younger generation…Millennials will manage their careers by pursuing advanced education, changing professions and work situations, and overcoming unique challenges associated with the 21st century workplace.”

Technology has the power to bridge these two generations, helping the olders to become more comfortable with new technology approaches, and helping the youngers to learn how to be strong contributors to a successful, effective workforce.  It’s clearly time for a paradigm change, as pointed out by Sir Ken Robinson at RSA Animate.

One of the most striking aspects of this generation really is the significant role that technology necessarily plays in their everyday lives.  They live and die by their mobile devices, and much of their online activity is driven by and through a social networking platform.  These individuals communicate via text, think in short phrases, and connect and collaborate extensively with one another.

This technology mindset also has major implications for how schools, colleges, and universities prepare them for the workforce.  In fact, this generation is driving the shift across all educational institutions as they struggle to develop teaching approaches that are relevant, engaging, and more effective than the majority of today’s traditional classrooms.

This is a wonderful, terrible thing for school and university leaders: wonderful because we have a new generation of students and workers who see the world in a different, often more creative, way, and technology is at the heart of how they think.  Terrible because they have to make investments in time and money to make sure they’re ready to take on jobs that demand they have advanced technology and social interaction skills.

Ironically, it is technology that can help to bridge the gap between this new generation and those Baby Boomers getting ready to retire.  In fact, technology can help to connect these two generations in ways unthought-of before, and before this valuable brain-trust leaves the workforce altogether.

More and more schools, colleges, and universities are considering ways to use technology to bridge this gap by:

–          Creating and joining online professional development communities, linking newer teachers with more experienced teachers in coaching-mentoring relationships.

–          Using lecture-capture technologies to record the very best teachers and professors in action, and archiving these for use by newer teachers.

–          Using distance-learning technologies to reach younger students and teachers with more seasoned professionals in other cities, states, or countries.

–          Using video technologies to take virtual field trips, led by teachers and professors who have extensive experience in a given subject or course.

–          Using webconferencing technologies to hold instant meetings between newer teachers and assistants and more experienced master teachers and professors.

None of us wants to waste a good generational shift.  For the first time in our history, we have the tools at hand to help us to effect a smooth transition between these generations.  Let’s use them to our advantage so that we Baby Boomers can rest easy at night, knowing we’ve prepared our Millennial brethren to shape a healthy and prosperous workforce and economy.

 1Levit, Alexandra, and Licina, Dr. Sanja. “How the Recession Shaped Millennial and Hiring Manager Attitudes about Millennials’ Future Careers,” study commissioned by the Career Advisory Board, 2011.

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  1. it is so important to understand this thinking for traditional service organizations in order to interest the younger generation in our programs which are pointed toward serving Humanity.