Although the average retirement age in the United States is 61, most baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) apparently aren’t average and they still make up about a third of the work force (31%), compared with 33% of millennials (born between 1980 and 1996) and 32% of Gen Xers (born 1965 to 1979).
While they may grumble about their jobs, their bosses, their commutes, their long hours at work, or those silly young folks in the other cubicle, almost half (49%) the baby boomers in the United States don’t plan to retire until they are 66 or older.
But it’s usually not because of the job or the boss or any of those other reasons; for most of them it’s because this biggest-of-all demographic segment identifies so strongly with work—and valid or not, the notion that they “are” what they “do” is so deeply ingrained in baby boomers that many of them aren’t built to handle retirement.
Concern about money is certainly in play for this segment of the population, but probably just as importantly, work has been the defining part of their lives.
Considering they will remain an influential part of the work force in the coming years, it would be ideal if boomers’ talents and strengths in the workplace were being fully maximized.
Unfortunately, however, boomers are no more likely than other groups to say they are using their strengths to do what they do best throughout the day, according to a Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey during the last four months of 2013.
Boomers are not alone in that feeling—56% of working adults in the U.S. say they use their strengths throughout the day for six or fewer hours.
For purposes of the survey, Gallup defines “strengths” as activities for which one can consistently provide near-perfect performance. People who report using their strengths have higher productivity, self-confidence, well-being, hope and altruism.
Gallup’s assessment tests respondents for 34 specific strengths and identifies each individual’s top five strengths. Among the strengths identified are things like Adaptability, Responsibility, Learner, Developer, Achiever, Empathy, Harmony and others.
While certain strengths overlap among generations, the Developer strength is especially powerful among baby boomers, making them adept at recognizing and cultivating the potential of others. They excel at seeing improved performance, and find personal satisfaction in helping others succeed.
The bottom line, according to the report, is that boomers have come through a lot during their lives, they plan to stay around the workplace longer, and are “natural mentors, trainers, managers and leaders.”
Companies that make the effort to help their baby boomer employees identify their talents and then position them in roles to use those strengths will achieve higher performance outcomes, including greater productivity and profitability and lower turnover.
The report also concluded “a targeted effort to engage baby boomers could have important ramifications for health-care costs and productivity for individual workplaces and the overall U.S. economy.”