As part of Recruiting.com’s blogswap, we submitted a Guest Podcast on Jim Stroud’s The Recruiter’s Lounge. I thought that listeners might be interested in being able to read the information as well as link off to the stories that were mentioned – so I have written a post covering the information from Julian’s Podcast. (And yes – I did it for the search engine love too)
There’s been some good debate and commentary over the last year in the recruitment space about the influx of Generation Y and the coming mass exodus of Baby Boomer knowledge in relation to productivity in the workplace. Doomsayers play the role of helping us see how bad it could be if we both loose this talent AND fail to make adjustments for it NOW. Given that our economic survival depends on figuring out solutions to this problem I believe we’ll come up with some innovative ways of harvesting our baby boomers knowledge and experience. Others won’t and they’ll likely go out of business. All of this has me thinking about our future. After all, everyone has a stake in it regardless of age, social, geographic or economic factors.
This discussion hardly started last year.
Back in 1995, when I was still in college and not even a twinkle is Julian’s eye – Julian attended a briefing by French Management Consultant and Author Robert Aubrey at a Stanford Breakfast Meeting. Aubrey’s book, Working Wisdom, Timeless Skills and Vanguard Strategies for Learning, co-authored by Paul Cohen (who became prominent as the editor for Tom Peter’s In Search of Excellence newsletter) takes a stab at defining how learning organizations could flourish by exploring how adults learn, how workers acquire wisdom, and how they use that knowledge to create more effective companies. The central theme of Aubrey’s speech that really had an impact on me was that companies were doing a terrible job of recognizing the wisdom in their employees, never mind actually leveraging that wisdom. This was the mid 90’s in Silicon Valley where young Wiz Kids were already ruling the roost, while older 30-somethings to 50-somethings were already looked at as ‘out-of-it’. Yahoo’s Stanford digerati Jerry Yang and David Filo were busy re-writing the rules and Julian was playing his own little part in that revolution while at the same time thinking about what he’d learned of history, culture and philosophy from his dad and thinking to myself that we were missing something important in our corporate world. Aubrey was telling us to wake up and recognize the great resources right under our noses and also encouraging us to build learning organizations so that highly immature technology companies like Yahoo! could do a better job of harvesting their own working wisdom. 10 years later Jerry Yang and David Filo, even at their young ages, are considered sage-like. There are legions of people who came before them, with them, and are still yet to come (our MySpace friends) that must all contribute to our collective corporate and personal consciousness.
Human behavior doesn’t change much over time. Right now the difference between a Baby Boomer and a MySpacer seems pretty vast – and they are in some ways – but looked at in context of our last 50 years, or a macro level, we see a lot of similarities. How different are a MySpacer’s behavior and social awareness from our mother and father’s ‘hippy’ generation? And is that so different from our own Gen X sensibilities?
The generations aren’t so different in fact. Interesting news stories about Baby Boomers have been popping up everywhere. In some instances, you could swap out Baby Boomer for Generation Y and have the same product – just a different target audience. Here are a few:
1- Nintendo Electronic game maker Nintendo has posted sales with an eight-fold increase over the last year due to 40 and 50-something’s buying game units…for themselves? Did anyone other than Nintendo see that one coming? How did they see that one coming?
“Nintendo managed to attract new gamers in their 40s and 50s with its Brain Training for Adults, a collection of puzzles and quizzes designed to give older gamers a daily mental workout, and Nintendogs, a virtual pet game. It has just released an electronic sudoku, the numbers puzzle.”
2- From the recent Business 2.0 article (HT to Dave Lefkow), More Retirees Opting to Launch Startups, approximately 80 percent of boomers want to keep working in the years traditionally reserved for retirement – but with one big difference that jumps out at me – similar to what gets said about Gen Y – they aren’t afraid of work – but they want to do it on their own terms.
“For the past 10 years, adults ages 55 to 64 have been the group most likely to start a new business, according to a study released in May by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which promotes entrepreneurship.”
They’ve got the drive and mobility that our young MySpacer’s have…but they also have money. And they’re hopped up on the power of networking because many of them have been networking for longer than MySpacer’s have been alive. In fact:
“Indeed, strong networks are what separate thriving retiree entrepreneurs from all the rest, says Wes Moss, author of Starting From Scratch: Secrets From 21 Ordinary People Who Made the Entrepreneurial Leap (Kaplan, 2005).
3- Did you know that Jeff Taylor formerly of Monster fame has been making news of late with Eons, Inc, the new (social networking?) site targeting the 50-100 year old demographic? Jeff’s keeping pretty mum on the details of the site, a clue to what the site will be can be found in an excerpt from one of Eon’s open job descriptions on Monster:
“Do you know the ins and outs of fostering a true sense of community on the web? Are you familiar with those tools and techniques that not only enable, but ENCOURAGE site visitors to take an active part in the conversations going on around them? Have you worked with message boards, blogs and viral marketing campaigns that produce REAL results and transform web sites from mere electronic versions of a print publication into a vibrant, dynamic community where the driving force of the conversation is as compelling as the original content offered by the site itself?”
For now we are thinking of it as “GraySpace” – the hair color equivalent for grown-up MySpacer’s. It does beg the question: “Will a kid land this open job at Eons and be the one building the “community” or will it be a boomer? Clearly someone thinks Jeff’s idea is a good one.
Are Boomer’s just emulating our youth or is something else going on?