Organizations can reap the rewards of leveraging retired baby boomers for gig work.
By Colleen Frankwitz
It’s a hot question: As the 75-million-strong baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, how will organizations fill the void in the workforce—especially in senior-level roles and highly-skilled positions?
One solution? The gig economy. With their strong work ethic and decades of knowledge to share, many boomer-age professionals are turning to the gig economy to bring new value to their careers before and after retirement.
Baby boomers are in high demand. They act as advisors to up-and-coming leaders, tackle tough projects in their areas of expertise, fill interim roles, and more. It’s a win for everyone involved: Organizations get the expertise they need and boomers get to do work they enjoy.
Boomers are Embracing the Gig Economy
This generation is typically goal-oriented, resourceful, and focused—traits that make them the ideal candidate for “gig work” like consulting. Although “gigging” is often associated with millennials, a study from T. Rowe Price shows that boomers have more positive feelings about the gig economy than millennials or Gen X. After a lifetime of working for someone else, surveyed boomers say gig work makes them feel free, independent, and empowered.
In fact, 86 percent of baby boomers who work in the gig economy today say they get a lot of enjoyment and pleasure out of their work and 76 percent say they wouldn’t want to change their current working situation, according to a recent Harris Poll.
“Being a consultant is one of the most fulfilling jobs I’ve ever had,” says Francine Merrell, a baby boomer and HR consultant for Salo. “I get to choose my projects so I can focus on the work I like most. Also, I get to be a mentor without the responsibilities of being a manager. And I can still take time off to travel like I always hoped to do.”
Many baby boomers plan to continue consulting after “official” retirement. According to the Freelancer Union, of boomers who already consult, 67 percent say freelancing is a good way to transition into retirement.
This generation is pioneering a new phased approach to retirement where rewarding work and traditional retirement activities like traveling, volunteering, and spending time with family are both possible. While 74 percent say they plan to work past age 65, most boomers (63 percent) expect to work only part-time. Many say they’ll work during retirement because they want to, not because they have to, according to Gallup.
The Organizational Benefits
Companies are reaping the rewards, too—capitalizing on the expertise of baby boomers with decades of experience under their belts. According to a recent Transamerica Retirement study, many employers believe that older workers bring more knowledge, wisdom, and life experience; are more responsible, reliable, and dependable; and are a valuable resource for training and mentoring.
Salo leverages baby boomer consultants and finds them most helpful in two high-impact situations:
- When an organization is facing a unique or complex challenge, such as a significant company reorganization or large software implementation. Since baby boomers have often done these projects in the past, they provide a steady hand that can confidently guide the project by sharing their knowledge and making the project a positive experience for the team.
- When a leader (or leadership team) needs strategic support. A consultant with previous senior leadership experience can bring a unique perspective. They can serve as a thinking partner and advisor, providing strategic insights, new ideas, and unbiased advice.
Not to mention, when hiring a contingent-based boomer, an organization doesn’t have to hire a full-time employee or ramp up their existing team to fill these unique needs.
Colleen Frankwitz is the talent connections director at Salo.