Workforce Demographics: Tracking the Lost Generation of Fortysomethings

generation of fortysomethings

Pity the lost generation of fortysomethings – workers born in the late 1960s.  He or she is marooned between Boomers (born 1946-1959) and Busters (born since 1975) who share virtually none of their values.  The fortysomeythings have more choices than companies — or they — realize.  The Fortune 500 will lose them in increasing numbers to small companies and five to ten-year-old web-based companies.  Interestingly enough, not-for-profits won’t get the best and brightest — or even the main line normal — from this age group because they are still highly profit oriented and believe corporations the best places to make money.

1.  Second careers are more common with fortysomethings who see themselves as young enough to succeed in a new field .  Nursing is now a second career for people retiring from the military, law enforcement, abandoning teaching, etc.  Teaching appeals to many with a large enough buyout to allow the indulgence.

2.  Fortysomethings will consider changing geography — but not necessarily to a warmer climate — if they are also changing careers.  They will move for a much better opportunity even if they know it’s not long-term.  More than any other demographic group they don’t expect and are derisive of “happily ever aftering.”

3.  More fortysomethings than Boomers do not believe anything a company says.  If told the time they’d demand to see the clock and also proof of its  reliability.  This makes them reluctant team players and non cheerleaders.  Boomers find them harder to motivate.  The difference between them and younger colleages is that they sometimes pretend they’re enthused.

4.  They have felt a steady decline in standard of living because they have tried to save more for retirement than older workers.  Defined benefit retirement plans disappeared when they were in their thirties.

What they bring is the ability to work comfortably with older and younger workers.  However, Boomers don’t understand that Boomers aren’t admired by their younger colleagues so they don’t call on fortysomethings as buffers.  Only a recovering economy and ruinous turnover will allow fortysomethings to play a significant role.

Finally, fortysomethings are most likely to go to work for their children in a start-up as soon as it can support several people.  They will do for a few what corporations couldn’t allow them to do for the many.  They also realize that impermanence is permanent.  Boomers will never stop trying to reassert control over the workplace but fortysomethings will accept reality or move on.

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Related Posts:

What Happens When Boomers Don’t Move On?

Rethinking Retirement

Workplace Demographics: Fight or Flight?


Filed under Current Research, Workforce Demographics