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Raymond Morin
April 21, 2015

Generation C: The Social Benefit of Baby Boomers

With increasing frequency, we hear and read that in the social networks, it is better to focus on the quality of relationships, rather than relying solely on the number of friends and followers. And by investing in more sustainable relationships, we obtain a better ROI with social media.

However, in the current context, the baby boomers, who developed a very early sense of personal relationships, can perhaps use this inbuilt ability to become leaders of the social transformation of enterprises and organizations. Indeed, if Gen Y and Gen Z can be described as Digital Natives, perhaps Boomers and their immediate successors, Gen X, are the last generations of true Social Natives.

This is the thinking that inspired Ted Rubin, in one of his recent articles: Boomers get best social because they have relationship building experience.

Learn the basics of the relationship in the early years

For over a century, scientific studies have shown that brain development is mainly before the age of six, and that learning communication (and languages) is favored during this period. This is a key advantage of boomers in the digital age, explains the American author and lecturer:

¨Seventy-six million American children were born between 1945 and 1964, and in our formative years, the most advanced piece of communication technology was the rotary dial telephone. Neighbors still talked over fences, joined in-person social clubs, read the newspaper that was delivered to their door and wrote letters to each other (real, honest-to-goodness letters written on paper and sent out in envelopes with stamps).

“These kinds of things might seem old-fashioned and out of touch by younger generations, but I think that upbringing actually gives Boomers the advantage in building social relationships. Why? Because we learned the basics of face-to-face interaction with people at an early age: being polite, shaking hands, looking people in the eye and listening. Those skills were drummed into us from the time we could walk. First by parents, and then reinforced from grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, neighbors, teachers, and coaches. There were no ‘preschool’ classes to teach children how to behave with one another. Mom often stayed home and prepared children for kindergarten with playdates and other family and social activities. Most of what we learned about interacting with people we learned before we were six! ¨.

Early on, our parents taught us to work as a team and share our learning materials with our classmates. Younger Boomers (born between 1956-1964) have grown and evolved at a time when the communities (of interest?) emerged, and multiplied, where the first social sharing actions were appearing. During the 60s, the youth was immersed in counter-culture, and movement of Flower Power, Peace and love; the time of the first great ideological and social changes and the Quiet Revolution. Birth control, the first heart transplant, the moon landing and the empowerment of women. All hopes were raised, and utopia ruled.

Find the true meaning of friendship

0ed2f30The sense of community and friendship had a whole new meaning, as Ted Rubin says in his article:

¨Having a friend as a child in my day meant actually playing with someone in the sandbox, having sleepovers and birthday parties, or riding bikes to the nearest mom-and-pop grocer to spend nickels and dimes on penny candy. If you were lucky you kept those friends through school and/or college and deepened the relationship with them over time. There were no video games. There was no Internet. We played outside, got dirty and learned teamwork!

“As we got older, those relationship-building skills translated to working relationships with superiors, peers and customers. We instinctively know how to talk ‘with’ each other, so we gravitate toward face-to-face networking situations. ¨

Today’s generation integrates first through digital tools, before learning to communicate and exchange one-on-one. Inter-personal relationships are initiated, developed and often continue virtually, through popular social networks. The relationship can long remain impersonal.

Taking the time to assimilate new technologies

¨We weren’t born into today’s technology, but we’ve seen lots of technological changes in our time, including the birth of personal computers, the Internet, cell phones and social media. Up until the last decade, technology moved slower for us, and that causes us to be a little slower to adopt new gizmos and gadgets. However, we bring our person-to-person social skills with us, so we don’t have to be taught how to #justbenice on new digital channels.

“Once Boomers ‘get’ how to use social, we’re better at listening, adjusting to situations on the fly, and reaching out in various ways to take relationships to the next level. It’s has to do with the way we were wired from the beginning… but more importantly it’s about experience building relationships and learning how to adapt, that comes to anyone with age and the passage of time.¨

Boomers have taken the time to assimilate new technologies and integrate this digital learning in their daily lives and their work environment. They were the first to introduce new methods of participatory management, provide quality control committees and employee engagement programs, and build teams.

Conditions conducive for social transformation

8783746_sIn recent years, the baby boomers have almost caught up with those of Generation X in terms of use of the  Internet and social media, and the generation gap in digital learning is no longer a problem in the professional context. Since 2006, Boomers have held the majority of leadership positions and influence in organizations and companies. Today, nearly a third (32%) of the workforce is over 50.

In the current context, where economic future is uncertain, more and more young baby boomers make use of their advantages (maturity of social relations and digital learning) to choose to continue their careers as long as possible, and now retire later.

This phenomenon makes sure that over the next few years, four generations will find themselves at work simultaneously. Between 2018 and 2022, it would not be surprising to find there up to five generations, as was aptly noted by Andy (Capaloff), my editor at Curatti with my last post. According to the most recent studies of AARP (formerly American Association of Retired Persons), 8 baby boomers out of 10 have to extend their work as long as possible.

Those Boomers whose employers have not forced them into mandatory retirement, continue to choose in numbers, to stay at work and to share the decision-making positions with those of Generation X who have taken over many managerial positions. Now better trained and more familiar with the new technologies, these highly experienced workers are more easily integrating the tools of social media into work processes. They can then interact more easily with the new generations in the workplace, and better understand their needs.

They will then complete their pivotal role of the inter-generational transfer more efficiently and better convey the culture and vision of the organization to new generations of the digital age. They will finally deliver the keys of social transformation to new generations.

 

What about you? Do you think the baby boomers can still play an important role in the social transformation of organizations? What is your experience in working with the new generations. Share your experience and your opinion with our readers.

 

This article originally appeared in French on the Raymond Morin site. To learn more about consulting for Web / social media, click the link)

(Extracts Ted Rubin’s text have been freely translated, with his permission, and come from an article that previously appeared on tedrubin.com)

Other links: http://millennialceo.com/generational-insights/blended-generation-tank-multigenerational-workplace-geny-genx-boomers-coexist/

 

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/lifestyle/nostalgia/welsh-history-month-scenes-remembered-7914526

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140828125416-10572825-3-challenges-to-bridging-the-gap-between-millennials-gen-xers-and-baby-boomers

Copyright: ‘http://www.123rf.com/profile_nyul‘> / 123RF Stock Photo

 

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Raymond Morin

SMO Senior Consultant, Author/Blogger and Speaker at Virage 2.0
Raymond Morin is a francophone author and speaker, who has also acted as senior strategic consultant and coach for organizations, SMBs and independent professionals for over 20 years. An early adopter to the Web and social media, he shared his learning and knowledge, throughout those years, for the benefits of several funding and governmental organizations, before choosing to be a freelancer for entrepreneurs and professionals organizations. His focus is on establishing bridges between the different enterprises and consumers, to fill the gap between cultures and generations, for the benefits of each professional user. Author of the books "Culture Web à la portée des PME" (2001) and "Comment entreprendre le virage 2.0" (2010), he has also contributed to several magazines and bloggers platforms over the years. His upcoming new book in French, entitled "Generation C et l’influence des consommateurs branchés", is prefaced by Neal Schaffer, and will be also published in English and Spanish during the next year.
  • Thanks for the mention, and outreach Ray. You’ve often heard me say that social media should be more about building real relationships than just ‘friending/liking/following’ a lot of people. That’s why I think Baby Boomers ‘get’ social media better than those who were born into it—because they’re old hats at building person-to-person relationships. And that’s not just because I’m one of them!

    Relationships are like muscle tissue… the more they are engaged, the stronger and more valuable they become. #RonR

    • I so agree, Ted, and not just because I am a boomer! I find that because we didn’t grow up behind a computer, we do not have online personas – for the most part, we are online as we are off. I suspect that Gen Z are the same online as off, but based around their online persona. Not so sure about Gen Y. One person on and anther off for some fair number of them. How do you make meaningful, lasting relationships with a construct?

    • It’s all my pleasure, Ted. You just wrote this the way I would like had to. And, I totally agree with your comments, there’s is no steroid for social success ; it’s only matter of apprenticeship and social manners that has nothing to see with online personas (as Andy mentioned).
      I’m also from the last cohort of boomers (1958), and my two sons are just born at the end of the last industrial era generation, the Gen Y (1992 and 1993). They found them in a middle zone (Echo-boomer), stuck between two complete different generational mindsets (as we were) ; the one that we transmitted, the other conducted by the first entirely digital natives that they are growing with. I think that they are in some ways in similar context of our during the 60’s and 70’s. And, I’m convinced that they will take the lead of this new social era revolution as we tried to during this time. Did we succeed for ourselves? I don’t think so! So, then, now we have the opportunity, as the duty, to contribute to this major revolution in a way that we maybe failed before.

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