The post-boomer workforce

What the generational shift means for employees, employers and leaders

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Bruce Tulgan, author of “Not Everyone Gets a Trophy” and “It’s Okay to Be The Boss” has published a white paper titled “The Great Generational Shift: The Emerging Post-Boomer Workforce.”

I will highlight information provided by Tulgan, the results of his tracking this transformation for more than 20 years. Tulgan writes, “This is the post-Baby Boomer shift that demographers and workforce planners have been anticipating for decades. It is not only a generational shift in the numbers in the workforce, but an epic turning point. This is the final stage of a historic period of profound change globally and a corresponding transformation in the very fundamentals of the employer-employee relationship.”

The white paper, along with a variety of resources, is available at

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Highlights from the white paper:

  • The workforce is aging on one end of the spectrum and getting younger on the other. In the middle there is a gap, with the prime age workforce shrinking.
  • By 2020, Boomers will comprise less than 20 percent of the Western workforce.
  • By 2020, second-wave millennials (born 1990-2000) will be greater than 20 percent of the Western workforce. This is referred to as the youth bubble.
  • During this era of change, we are experiencing a changing labor market, a changing workforce, a changing workplace, a changing nature of employment and changes in the very nature of work.
  • The myth of job security is dead. Employers are more likely to undertake major organizational changes that eliminate jobs regardless of length of service.
  • There is also a trend toward hiring fewer full-time employees and more contingent workers. As a result, the number of traditional employees is diminishing while the percentage of contingent workers is increasing. This is a fundamental change in employment practices.
  • More employees are being managed by short-term project leaders instead of “organization chart” managers.
  • The free-agent mindset is the prevailing workforce mindset. Employees no longer labor quietly and obediently. Most work anxiously to take care of themselves and their families and try to get what they can from their employers, one day at a time.
  • There is no going back to the workplace of the past where the default presumption was long-term, full-time and on-site—a one-size-fits-all hierarchical career path.

On a daily basis, we encounter leaders in organizations who continue to focus on the preservation of the way it’s been. After all, this is what feels right. The energy currently expended on preservation needs to shift toward reinvention.

Tulgan shares what the shift means for employers and for workers. Below is a brief excerpt:

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For employers:

  • Dedicate resources to support knowledge transfer of the exiting baby boomers.
  • Be prepared for a disproportionate number of young workers who will not hesitate to make suggestions, special requests and demands.
  • Successful employers will maintain core groups of key talent and critical long-term stakeholders, combined with an increasing number of fluid/flexible ways to employ people (on-site, off-site, telecommuting, consultants, temps, vendors, etc).
  • Successful organizations will offer many different career paths and “dream job factors:” Flexible work conditions, pay-for-performance, coaching-style leadership and lots of flexibility.

For employees:

  • Older workers are experiencing rapid change, while younger workers have never known the world any other way.
  • Most workers today assume that most employment relationships will be relatively short-term and transactional.
  • Individual workers of all ages want, expect and often request greater flexibility in work conditions. Workers want flexible location, flexible dress, flexible work conditions.

For leaders, managers and supervisors:

  • Managing people will keep getting harder as workers expect more.
  • They will be required to spend more time with young workers who need more guidance, direction, support and coaching.
  • Recognize that millennials will not give their best efforts to a leader who is perceived as weak or disengaged.
  • Millennials will make specific requests related to assignment of tasks, training, scheduling, work location, work space, guidance, coaching, raises, benefits, etc.
  • To be effective, managers must be strong and highly engaged, conducting structured communication to provide guidance, direction, support and coaching.

I will reiterate, as I often have, that too many organizations are still viewing this as a topic of intrigue or as a problem to be solved. These challenges are here to stay, and reinvention is necessary. I encourage you to view this white paper in its entirety.

-Aleta Norris is a co-founding partner of Brookfield-based Living As A Leader, a leadership training, coaching and consulting firm. You may send questions to her at To read all of her columns, visit the knowledge portal at

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