[because] new estimates show the average retired couple may need more than $300,000 in savings to live comfortably and pay off late-life health care costs. [Source: Pew Research Center.]
2. Only 20% of retirees now feel very confident they have enough money to live comfortably throughout their retirement, down from 41% in 2007. [Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute.]
3. 36% of those 56 or older are still working — more than ever. That’s more than twice as many as in 1984 [Source: 2007 Bureau of Labor Statistics report.]
4. 9.5 million Americans are considering at least a partial return to the workforce because of the economic downturn. [Source: Charles Schwab Corporation.]
Companies and members of Gen U alike can tap into this opportunity and mutually benefit – through understanding, effort and by abandoning stereotypical behavior. Hiring managers must be savvy about age discrimination laws at all times, but particularly when working with Gen U – as early as the interview stage.
In general, there must be sensitivity to unproven myths and how they manifest themselves, not just for the sake of productivity, but for human decency as well. Similarly, a work veteran of 45+ years who reports to a 30-something with specialized skills may find it challenging. But the Gen Uer, but must treat him or her, too, with respect.
This shift can certainly be a win-win. Gen U can be an educated, energetic and rededicated group of individuals — many of whom are taking online courses to upgrade their skills. These returning seniors add numerous assets to the workforce:
• Experience: The typical Gen U reentering the workforce is a senior professional with significant depth of knowledge. Technology and other tactical skills can be taught, but there is no substitute for experience.
• Interpersonal Intelligence: Human relations skills are perhaps the most valuable skill a person can have in this increasingly high-tech world. They are hard to teach and aren’t developed overnight. Being an “office diplomat” is often developed over a lifetime of work.
• Virtual Team Availability: Global companies have employees scattered throughout the world who must work with many cultures, diverse beliefs and work styles. Skilled project managers with years of organizational and time-management experience can help keep team players on track and productive.
• Mentoring: The workforce benefits by being able to tap into a Gen U’s area of expertise as mentors who can pass along shortcuts to growth and success.
• Part-Time or On-Call Access: After the recent economic crisis, more companies are eyeing the benefits of having workers there when you need them. Gen Uers benefit from having a flexible schedule that allows them to work around their other activities or financial needs.
Smoothing Over the Rough Edges
Today’s need for a humanized workplace can be well served by such timeless, valued traditions as business etiquette and diplomacy — tenets of business practices applied more extensively in the heyday of the Gen Uers. These skills are the antithesis of what I call Terrible Office Tyrant (TOT) behavior where non-savvy bosses and co-workers can wreak havoc in the workplace and diminish company’s profits.
With age often comes an ability to see the forest for the trees and put pettiness aside. Perhaps Gen Uers understand well the meaning of Bonnie Raitt’s lyrics in “Nick of Time”: “Life gets mighty precious when there’s less of it to waste.” At work, they can see the larger picture, adding Gen-U-ine value to enlightened companies.