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Why executive education is no longer a one-size-fits-all proposition | Alberta Venture

1 May 2014—Center's research was mentioned on albertaventure.com.

The Boomers

You might be tempted to think of baby boomer employees the way you do a cactus: occasionally prickly, but in need of very little care and attention. Well, not quite. As Stella Cosby, the senior director of human resources at Agrium, says, adopting that strategy can lead to them behaving like, well, cacti. “They have a lot of discretionary effort, and when you become less engaged you hold back that discretionary effort. You come to work, you do your job, but if you’re not feeling valued or if you believe that the company doesn’t think that you’re as engaged or innovative, you start holding back.”

That’s a problem, given that your boomer employees still have plenty left to offer. As a number of studies published by Boston College’s Sloan Center on Aging and Work reveal, they might just be your most valuable assets. “Hiring managers gave very high marks to people that are over 50 for their loyalty, their reliability and their productivity,” Cosby says. “Their work ethic is a little different than the millennials and gen-Xers.” That’s why only investing in those under 50 is a short-sighted and self-defeating strategy. “A lot of organizations don’t target development dollars for those over 50 because they’re targeting them at the younger generations or the high-potential up-and-comers,” Cosby says. “That’s a problem, because what happens to those people? They still have another 10 to 20 years left.”

The solution might lie in technology. If boomers still have another 20 years left in the organization, they can’t afford to not understand the latest trends in tech. Twenty years ago, after all, Microsoft was at the cutting edge and cellular telephones were an extravagance. Who knows where we’ll be, or what we’ll be using, 20 years from today. So take one of those millennials you have knocking around your office, and tell them it’s their mission to help their older colleagues tell the difference between Twitter and Tinder. They get the benefit of building a relationship with a senior colleague, while their counterpart gets a guide to the latest technologies. In some circles, this is called reverse mentoring. You can just call it a good idea.

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