Corporate Citizenship Blog

With age comes the wisdom to roll with the punches at work

Posted by Tim Wilson on Sep 3, 2009 11:11:37 AM

Just the other day I came across a report on work by another Boston College center on the other side of campus. The study by Boston College's Sloan Center on Aging & Work, evaluated the effects of the recession on employee engagement and it hit home here at the Center for Corporate Citizenship – and specifically here at the desk of a baby boomer.

Employee engagement is a hot topic these days as corporate citizenship professionals struggle to keep their programs and initiatives alive in a tight economy. More than ever employees are seen as key stakeholders who are vital to successful corporate citizenship.

The Sloan Center report, “The Difference a Downturn Can Make”, explores how economic concerns have affected employees’ workplace experiences and how changes differ by employee age and perception of job security. What the researchers found that really piqued my interest: Members of Generation Y - workers ages 26 and younger - reported the greatest decrease in engagement, while engagement remained virtually unchanged for baby boomers and older (workers older than 43 – otherwise known as my contemporaries). And while employee engagement decreased across all groups and was most significant in the younger age groups, the decrease was almost nonexistent among employees over 53 (my fellow 50-plus boomers who remember watching Apollo 11 land).

So what gives with those millennials who we’re counting on to carry the corporate citizenship banner into the future? And what happened to the stereotype of jaded curmudgeons just punching the clock?

"Some older workers have seen it all, and that gives them experiential resilience," Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, director of the Sloan Center, told Diversity Inc. "Younger workers just don't have the depth of experience, which leaves them feeling less engaged in their jobs.”

I guess there’s a silver-lining to keeping gray-haired heads on the payroll when the budget for staffing gets tight.

But Pitt-Catsouphes is quick to point out that employers shouldn’t rush to make AARP membership a required qualification at hiring time. She notes that “younger workers bring energy, enthusiasm and idealism. In a workplace where older and younger employees work side by side, the give and take between young and old is a valuable resource employers should leverage to survive the downturn.”

Well, it looks like I can still count on having colleagues who will be amazed by my stories of rotary dial telephones and vinyl records.

Topics: Corporate Citizenship

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