I've gotta say, I feel really good about being a Boomer, at this point in my life. I am enjoying a sense of opportunity and energy, as well as self-discovery, that is bringing me closer to values and goals that were important to me years ago. I can afford to make some work and lifestyle choices that would have been more difficult in the past, and I am better able to accept certain things and simply refuse to accept others.
As I wrote in my last post, I'm also enjoying the work and personal connections I have with younger people. Maybe it is drawing on the teacher in me, but I also feel as if I learn a lot from them, and as if we have considerable fun. I'm encouraged about the workplace of the future, because I see an interesting alignment of values that, if properly managed, should yield highly effective organizations.
I haven't yet figured out how to articulate the potential I see, but I can point to some elements of the opportunity. Younger generations seem to have a better sense of work-play balance than Boomers have had. Given that many Boomers now want to find a more flexible approach to work and life, perhaps we can see the wisdom of younger perspectives. Effective cross-generational work teams had better make time to laugh and play!
An interesting aspect of "flexibility" ties to work hours. Many Boomers want to work part time or seasonally. Project work may be attractive to some, but for me, I'm more interested in the social connection and the pleasure that comes with continuing work relationships. I want to be somewhere warm in the winter, and I want to take great vacations from time to time. I've never made a huge distinction between work and other interests, and that quality is serving me well. The opportunity to set my own hours, whether early in the morning (not likely) or late in the evening is very attractive, as is the idea of working like a demon for a few weeks, then heading off on some personal adventure for a few more.
Young people tend to share aspects of my attitude. The old "8-5" is tough on younger folks. It isn't that they are unwilling to work hard, but they want to have as much control as possible over exactly when, where and how they work. In fact, "control" is a big part of what both Boomers and Millenials are looking for, but it is control over their own choices about time and projects.
Millenials, especially, are motivated more by a sense of passion for whatever they are doing than by direction or instructions from higher up. I like that, and I've seen both Generation X-types and Millenials work with a level of commitment that I find impressive. Working with passion! That seems like an excellent way to live.
In the reading I've done, and the limited personal experience I've had, I'm struck by the notion that Millenials are looking for respect and for people to listen to their ideas. Sound like the 60's and 70's generation? Sharing ideas and building powerful group energy around important projects that people care about sounds terrific, as well.
Boomers can bring their stories and experience, but we also can lose our accumulated doubts and cynicism in the presence of young people who still believe they can change the world. Note that community is hugely important to young people, both their work "community" and the larger community within which they live. So that aspect for some Boomers, of wanting to change directions and become engaged in volunteer or part-time work connected to social service agencies and the like, is entirely consistent with how Millenials view community development. It is less about title, hierarchy, or even pay than about making a difference.
I wonder if this also connects to our expanded lifespans? A friend who just turned 60 talks about choosing direction for the "second half of her adult life." If we are going to be around for 100 years, then the sense of time urgency should change. Why retire at 60, or even 70, if you feel young and vital and expect to be around for awhile, yet? By the same token, if you are 25 or 30 and expect to have another 70 years or more to go, why be in a hurry about education, career, or relationships? Maybe we can all make better choices if we see our lives unfolding over longer periods of time.
So much of what is written about younger generations is negative. For example, just thinking about the previous paragraph, some are talking about "extended adolescence" in Millenials and the need to press them to "grow up." Really? Is it extended adolescence or simply an awareness of more time to live, allowing less urgency to "get on with it"? (I'm not sure on this one. There are times when I do feel as if young people are remarkably superficial, moments away from when they impress me with their knowledge and poise, when it matters.)
I haven't tried to tie this post specifically to branch campuses, but it is easy enough to see the implications, wherever you choose to look. Branches are historically very engaged in community, and there are opportunities here to help build community connections, effective cross-generational teams, and the like. There are possible implications for how we staff campuses and meet demand for instructors. Credit or noncredit certificate programs could be built around cross-generational opportunities, and so on.
We actually have very little choice but to find ways to work together. Boomers aren't ready to leave the stage, but we need the Millenials and Xers to make things run. I've got a feeling that some organizations and communities will figure out how to make it soar and others won't. Just as occurs in disruptive environments, there will be winners and those who don't know what hit them. I've got to admit, I like that idea. I plan to be one of the people having a great time and contributing what I can.