Much has been made of the fact that baby boomers will be retiring in droves, leaving the field as worn-out warriors with their outdated ideas. Younger workers - GenY - will be the new face of the workplace, revolutionizing the labor force with technology and demands for more flexibility.
The problem is that this isn't necessarily what is happening. Sure, baby boomers are retiring...but not in droves. First, there is the economic necessity to remain working, especially with the increasing costs of just going to the grocery store, the floundering stock market and of course, the housing debacle.
Second, GenYers are more supportive of boomers staying on the scene, and if nothing else, employers are paying attention to what younger workers want. In fact, according to author Tamara Erickson who just completed a book on retirement, GenYers like having boomers around. "When I talked to GenX privately, they are the one who are pretty darn excited for boomers to move on, because they want to move into their jobs," says Erickson. "But GenYers see that as disrespectful, and they don't like it."
Erickson told me that GenYers have grown up listening to boomers (their parents), and often rely on their advice. They are not a generation who resents this age group, but rather sees it as valuable and an important part of their lives. GenYers, with their gift for networking, see the boomers as an integral part of their success, and understand that they don't yet begin to have the talent to completely fill a boomer's shoes in the labor force.
The truth is, GenYers and boomers may be the greatest partnership since Dean met DeLuca. Employers will be getting hit from both ends of the spectrum by younger and older workers who have key skills and want the same thing: more flexibility and a chance to use their skills to gain the lifestyle they want. It may be just a strong enough force to finally make employers realize this isn't an HR delusion, but a real change in the workforce that must be addressed through more than empty promises. Finally, we may see new policies that forever change the way work gets done.