By Danny Beckett Jr., Founder and CEO of Assemble.
2020 was a long year for baby boomers and other older generations. Gen Z and Millennials have not only coined the phrase “OK, Boomer” on all social media platforms, but older generations have also experienced one of the greatest upheavals that current generations have ever seen.
A typical work day for a boomer includes waking up early, having a cup of coffee, 8 to 9 hours in the office, and stuck in rush hour traffic on the way home – just to spend a few hours with family before starting all over again.
Fast forward to 2021 and that entire routine has changed completely as employees now work remotely to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Many, especially younger generations like Millennials and Gen Zers, have embarked on flexible careers by becoming independent workers taking on multiple roles for some companies at the same time. To mature generations, the thought of working for more than one company comes as a shock and can even feel like infidelity in some ways. However, the younger generation is quick to show older workers that a flexible career is much more beneficial, and the older generation is giving them something in return.
Boomers and younger generations can exchange mentors.
While there seems to be too much to learn for mature generations as they enter the new normal, the same is true for younger ones. Millennials and Gen Z have quickly adapted to technology as they have spent most of their lives in a digital world. Associated with this, however, is a lack of understanding of the leadership and problem-solving skills that baby boomers and Gen Xers who enter the freelance profession are very experienced with.
It is projected that by 2025, 75% of the workforce will be millennials – most of whom will need to learn valuable skills not found in the typical entry-level job.
This is where Boomers and Gen Xers come in.
Although we often say that the “traditional ways” are no longer relevant, they have learned many valuable lessons that younger generations can benefit from. Boomer and Generation X folks didn’t grow up with the internet as a readily available source of information and have had to learn to teach themselves skills or find answers to questions. Resourcefulness and problem solving are incredibly valuable skills that many young people have yet to learn, and these skills are especially valuable in a freelance career.
As valuable as certain traits and skills may be, knowing when to slow down is also very valuable. Millennials and Gen Zers grew up in an environment where mental health and wellbeing are more important than ever. With 79% of workers saying they experience work-related stress, it is incredibly important that all workers, especially the older generation who are unfamiliar with these conversations, understand how to be self-sufficient about their work.
Millennials and Gen Zers can nurture these conversations and show how they can set valuable boundaries at work and make sure their mature coworkers feel supported in dealing with mental health issues in the workplace.
How to remove the “intimidation factor” of freelancers.
As this new way of working quickly normalizes, Boomers and Gen X workers are beginning to reassess their current careers: even in 2019, before the global pandemic, a study found that boomers made up 26% of the freelance workforce. That number is expected to continue to rise, but not without the hiccups. Digital transformation, automation and the entry of younger generations into working life are obstacles that many older workers want to overcome on their own.
There is a clear intimidation factor in entering the freelance, especially with regards to many of the traditional values that Generation Xers and Baby Boomers have represented. It is known that many freelancers tend to work for a few companies at the same time. For generations who have always watched their grandparents, parents, and peers approach work – and sometimes build decades of careers in a company – this is a big change. Working for a few different companies at the same time can be akin to disloyalty.
New technologies can also be overwhelming: While apps like Zoom and Slack were just a future thought a decade ago, today they are driving communication in the workplace. If you look at communication, the technologies in other areas have also developed further – due to the pandemic, marketing has become even more digitized than before. Many of these technologies have evolved as needed over the past year, causing older generations to worry about entering a skill-based workforce. On the flip side, however, there are potentially more valuable lessons than previously thought.
How digital talent platforms can help.
For some in the Boomer and Gen X demographic, it can often seem like successfully joining the growing freelance workforce is an almost impossible feat. Flexibility and the freedom to work on just what you want can be liberating, but it can also be an incredibly daunting challenge for older workers who have never had such a choice.
Those who want to start a freelance career are traditionally left to their own devices: Constantly looking for projects, chasing customers and billing (not to mention getting paid on time). Talent platforms relieve the freelancer of the work: They find jobs and customers, check their legitimacy and take care of the billing process so that the freelancer only has to concentrate on his work.
These talent platforms not only support skilled workers in their job search, but also help to promote dialogue between the generations by working with customers and other independent professionals from different generations. Through these interactions, workers of all generations can share knowledge and insights with both their younger and more mature colleagues.
The shift in the workforce towards freelancers has been a massive transition for all skilled workers, especially the more mature generations. Fortunately, both younger and older generations can rely on each other to learn how to move successfully in this new landscape.