Gen Z and Baby Boomers: A Perfect Match?

“Okay, Boomers!” you often hear derisively from Generation Z and Millennials. That sounds more like conflict than a dream team. So how and where do the young and the old fit together? Surprisingly: At work. We explain why and what this means for companies.

The baby boomers are gradually retiring – that’s a well-known fact. But what's new is that more and more of them want to continue working. Why? There are many reasons, but it's mainly about: to remain professionally active, to pass on knowledge, to have a purpose, to feel needed, to earn something extra.

But hardly any of the older people who want to work are looking for a new full-time job. Why should they? Enjoying retirement a bit, spending time with friends, doing sports, traveling – that's what they like to spend most of their well-deserved free time. And thanks to the (still) generous Swiss pension system, most seniors are seeking a purposeful task rather than the money when looking for a job.

So it should be a part-time job for them. The spectrum is wide, ranging from 10 percent to 80 percent, from regularly every week to a full-time project for three months. An ad interim management or a floater position when needed. A few hours to prepare annual accounts for an SME or on a commission basis in telesales. On-site or from home, preferably with free time management so that the work does not clash with their other spare time activities. A job where one can have the exchange with nice colleagues in the office as well as the peace and quiet of one's own desk in the home office.

If you take a closer look at these desired job models, you'll find a surprising number of similarities with what many Gen Z'ers and millennials also want: work, from wherever, at self-determined times, and please not full-time . In other words, a maximally flexible, hybrid and modular work model, as called for by the proponents of the “New Work”. Generation Z has better things to do than to subordinate their lives to the dictates of work. It's about work-life balance and working against climate change, about purpose and personal freedom.

Companies need to change

The tried-and-tested, yet more and more outdated full-time model that the majority of companies live by and propagate is being nibbled at from two sides: from below by younger employees and from above by older employees. It is probably only a matter of time before companies big and small have to change and declare the “New Work” models to be the new standard. It's a brave new world of work, in which everyone can arrange his or her own hours, workloads and locations to suit him or her best.

But why should companies change? Because they are under pressure to find good candidates and to fill all their open positions. There is already a shortage of staff everywhere, fueled by the demographic change of an aging society and by the current post-pandemic hiring frenzy in economies around the world. The labor market at home and abroad is virtually empty, in almost all sectors and at all levels. There is hardly a recruiter who does not complain about not being able to find suitable employees. In such a situation, it seems only logical to have to adapt to the changing needs of their staff as well as to consider working with so far overlooked segments (the retirees).

Cross-generational teams

Turn one full-time position into three part-time positions – in job sharing models or simply as three different roles. This will become just as important in the future as outsourcing more work to freelancers (keyword “gig economy”) and short-term assignments of substitutes and jumpers. Here, all those employees who are not “stuck” in a 100 percent full-time position are particularly valuable, as they are quickly available. It is quite clear that all this poses a major challenge for the organization of work in companies, especially in large corporations. But “business as usual” simply won't work any more in the future.

However, reorganizing how work is being distributed internally has even more advantages than simply finding good candidates. When young and old move closer together and cross-generational teams become the norm, the output of the teams also improves – this has been scientifically proven: After all, the more diverse the teams, the better the results. And in times when D&I initiatives are becoming increasingly important, excluding the old is definitely “out”.

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