Gen Z and Baby Boomers: A Dream Team?

"Ok, boomers!" is often heard derisively from Generation Z and Millennials. That sounds more like a conflict than a dream team. So how and where do the young and the old fit together? Where many people don't expect it: at work. We explain why, and what that means for companies.

It is well known that baby boomers are gradually retiring. But what is new is that more and more of them want to continue working. Why? The reasons are varied, but mainly they are about staying professionally active, passing on knowledge, having a purpose, feeling needed, earning something extra.

But hardly any of the older people willing to work are looking for a new full-time job. Why should they? Enjoying a little of retirement, spending time with friends, playing sports, traveling - that's a must. And thanks to the (still) generous Swiss pension, most seniors are more interested in the job than in the money when looking for a job.

So it should be a part-time position. The spectrum is wide, from 10 percent to 80 percent, from regular work every week or as a full-time project for three months. An ad interim management position or a fill-in position when required. A few hours to prepare the annual financial statements for an SME or on a commission basis in telesales. On site or from home, preferably with flexible scheduling so that work doesn't clash with leisure plans. And so that you can exchange ideas with nice colleagues in the office as well as the peace and quiet of your own desk in the home office.

If you take a closer look at the desired job models, you will find a surprising number of similarities with what Gen Z also wants: work, from wherever, at self-determined times, and please not full-time. In other words: a maximally flexible, hybrid and modular work model, as the proponents of "New Work" demand. Because Generation Z has better things to do than to completely subordinate their lives to the dictates of work. It's about work-life balance and the fight against climate change, about purpose and personal freedom.

Companies must adapt

The tried and tested, outdated full-time model that the majority of companies live by and promote is being nibbled at from two sides: from below by the younger generation, from above by the older generation. It is probably only a matter of time before the world of work changes and the modular working models of New Work have to be declared the new standard. A brave, new world of work in which everyone can arrange times, workloads and places as best suits them.

Companies are under pressure to act. There is already a shortage of staff everywhere, fuelled by the demographic change of an ageing society and the current post-pandemic overheating of economies around the world. The job market at home and abroad is empty, in almost all sectors and at all levels. There is hardly a recruiter who does not complain that they simply cannot find suitable employees. In such a situation, it seems only logical that one must adapt to the changing needs of regular employees as well as to working with other groups (pensioners).

Cross-generational teams

Turn one full-time position into three part-time positions - in job sharing models or simply with different tasks. In the future, this will be just as important as outsourcing work to freelancers (keyword: gig economy) and short-term assignments of substitutes and stand-ins. All those employees who are not "stuck" in a 100 percent full-time position and are only available with a long lead time are particularly valuable here. It is quite clear that all of this is a challenge for work organization in companies. But "business as usual" simply does not work.

But such a reorganization has other advantages for companies. 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. Because the more diverse the teams, the better the results. And in times when D&I initiatives are becoming increasingly important, excluding the elderly is definitely "out".

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