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Does Your Culture Exclude Baby Boomers?

As organizations evolve to create more inclusive cultures, it may be easy to overlook an older demographic which still has 41 million active employees across the nation: baby boomers.

Like any other generational cohort in the workplace, boomers have basic psychological needs that must be met to elicit high engagement and productivity. Unfortunately, only one-third of them are actively engaged at work, according to a recent Gallup survey.

Organizations can take the following steps to build a culture inclusive to baby boomers, ensuring tenured workers continue making valuable contributions.

Provide development opportunities

This may seem counterintuitive for a group of employees with decades of experience and inherent industry knowledge, but baby boomers desire professional development just as much as any other generation. Yet, only three in 10 strongly agree they get opportunities to learn and grow at work, which can lead to feelings of exclusion. This may be why 45% of boomers reported feeling ignored by their employer in a recent Ernst & Young study.

The training doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. Older employees are skilled in self-development and can navigate self-paced courses with ease. Managers who coach them and encourage additional learning opportunities will help make boomers feel like the company still wants to invest in them and values their contributions, both key drivers of engagement.

Reverse mentoring is another increasingly popular professional development tool, according to the Korn Ferry Institute. Pairing baby boomers with junior colleagues who have a particular skill has been shown to increase engagement and create a more inclusive environment.

Rethink reviews

Organizations should considering adapting a different approach to feedback and performance reviews for baby boomers. Older employees often don’t need or want constant feedback from managers, as they tend to be more secure in their job roles and skill sets than younger workers. Instead of making everyone submit to monthly or quarterly reviews, develop a customized review process that works best for individual workers.

Baby boomers who are managers have been tasked with providing more feedback to younger workers, but that doesn’t mean they want to receive it themselves. They like to be left alone to accomplish goals, so organizations can stick to more formal annual reviews to evaluate their progress.

Diversify communication

Phone calls and face-to-face meetings are the preferred communication methods for boomers, much to the dismay of millennials (and even some Gen Xers). Providing multiple ways to communicate – such as email, instant messaging and phone calls – can help all generations work together. And shorter, stand-up meetings can give more senior employees the in-person conversations they crave without disengaging younger workers, leading to more productive meetings in general.

But don’t count boomers out when it comes to digital communication; about 67% own smartphones, according to the Pew Research Center – up from just 27% in 2011. And a majority use social media, so they’re using those phones for more than just making calls.

Offer a different kind of flexible scheduling

Millennials aren’t the only ones who enjoy flexible schedules; a Harvard Business Review study revealed 87% of baby boomers want more flexibility, with two-thirds of the survey respondents saying they’d like the option to work remotely.

This generation’s ideal flexibility often means starting earlier, leaving the office before sunset and working from home only one day a week. Organizations that don’t chide boomer employees for leaving at 5 p.m. will be more likely to retain older talent and benefit from increased output.

Creating an environment where all workers have a sense of belonging is challenging, especially when trying to cater to up to five generations under one roof. Ensuring your workplace culture is inclusive to baby boomers will help keep your most experienced talent engaged and productive, instead of losing years of industry insight and institutional knowledge to an exclusive culture.