I interviewed Kathy Bornheimer who discussed The Bridge Generation.








What is the Bridge Generation?


The bridge generation is the workforce with 15 or more years of experience. They tend to be in the late 30s to mid-50s age group. They are in professional jobs, skilled trades, or service workers in all disciplines. They literally form the bridge between the millennials and the emerging workforce with the retiring baby boomers. If you view the baby boomers and the millennials as two cliffs and then how you get from one cliff to another, it's the bridge generation.


Don't forget that many of the millennials are already in their mid to late 20s, so this is not the emerging workforce. Your emerging workforce was born as recently as this century. So how are we going to get this people up to the level of the baby boomers? And that's through the bridge generation.


How can they help employers?


The bridge generation provides the skills, experience, and knowledge that's being lost from the retiring workforce. Most employers are focusing on the skills gap. They are not really acknowledging the experience or the knowledge gap, which is even more critical than the skills gap.


The emerging workforce has the current skills needed but not the extensive application of those skills or the experience. Remember, experience takes time. Learning by experience — what works and what doesn't work — avoids or reduces failure. When used effectively, the bridge generation that also possess strong interpersonal communication skills should be used as mentors, supervisors, or project leaders. Again, this increases continuity that saves time and money for the employer.


Now this area is important because of what is happening in the world of work. AARP publishes this information extensively, and they will put it in their public policy section of their website. In partnership with Manpower International, headquartered here in Milwaukie, Wisconsin, they listed the 10 fields that are lacking greatly in the workforce, and this includes personal caregivers. Remember, as the baby boomers age and they get to the senior years, they are going to need more assistance. So the personal caregivers who are retiring, are going to actually need the services themselves.


Ride-share drivers.Don't just think of Uber and Lyft. But as more and more seniors are giving up their car keys, they are going to have to find ways to get to places. So this is where ride-share comes in.


Administrative assistance.In general, office managers, administrative assistants, the good people are hard to find, and it takes time to develop their expertise. Remember, they make the boss look good.


Medical receptionists and administration in medical.Healthcare right now is almost in crisis mode with the increase in the need for the services and then where do we find the workforce.


The fifth one is financial services — not just stockbrokers and financial planning, but again, the baby boomers are now retired. Now how are they going to spend their retirement years and their retirement dollars? This is where financial services comes in to play on how are they going to spending this money wisely. Keep in mind, it is very difficult to take a new graduate out of college and have them relate to somebody in their 60s and 70s. There isn't a lot of mutual reference and cultural references between these two age groups. The seniors feel much more comfortable with people who've got a little more seasoning.


Skilled trades, which gets an awful lot of press in the United States and especially in Wisconsin — machinists, welders, construction, those types of people. They're wearing out. They cannot work until they're in their 70s because of the physicality of the job. Think of people out on the shop floor where there is no climate control. It's very cold in the winter and hot in the summer. They are going to retire when they are able to retire, and who is going to pick up the slack?


Vacation rental managers. Again, you've got these retired people and baby boomers with discretionary income. They will become snowbirds. They vacation a lot, and they'll be going to these hospitalities and resort areas. You need very effective managers at these facilities, or you are not going to have happy customers, and you will not stay in business.


Going back to healthcare. Nurses —don't just think in hospital. Home care is where the big need is. More and more seniors, as they age, and as they run into health situations, are staying home, and so they need nurses to come in. These people are not going into the hospital.


Off-shift warehouse workers. Remember, this area in logistics and warehousing is a 24/7 operation. Again, we're emphasizing off-shift warehouse workers. We, as a species, are not nocturnal, so your second- and third-shift workers are a unique breed, and these people have got to be found wisely and developed. And again, your bridge generation is going to help that process.


Then, teachers. This is national. This is getting a lot of coverage here in the state of Wisconsin because of what has happened in the last couple of years. You've got your new graduate teachers going into some very unique classrooms, and they do not have the experienced professionals who are good at what they do to be their mentors and to be leaders in groups. And this is how it's happening in education in particular. So, again, the continuity and helping the Millennials and the emerging workforce transition into successful work and having good role models. So this is what you need the bridge generation to do.


How can they be developed?


Many of these people are already developed. And most are currently employed. Now hopefully they're working for you, if this is an employer listening to this. These people have already empowered themselves and invested into their own additional skill training or continuing education. They have been mentored and have experience in managing their abilities and how to use them. They generally tend to be self-directed and self-motivated. So this is an asset they have and they display. And for employers and supervisors and managers who recognize these traits, you've got to key-in on them.


The bridge generation has also kept current with for-credit or noncredit courses or classes. This is at a university, technical school, or CEU's sponsored by a professional association. They have kept current on certification. Plus, they belong to professional associations or social groups. They are also very active with these organizations or associations in volunteering, so they are already used to working with people and volunteering and giving of their time and their expertise. So this is an area that you have to take a look at. Your current workforce, you have to know your current workforce very well so that you're aware that they are involved in these type of activities. And this goes beyond just their annual review.


Final recommendations.


First of all, employers need to see the value in this age or experience group. This is especially true with the 50-year-plus workforce. Again, AARP continues to provide data and published this data in their public policy postings. It is still the fact that the 50-plus age group experienced job loss at a higher rate, and re-employment in comparable jobs still lags.


I've been using the phrase "aging out, waging out," because often, these people are at the upper end of the compensation and benefit area. And so they do "cost more" than the younger, less experienced workforce. But you cannot afford to lose these people.


The newer workforce is just not getting the benefits of the bridge generation. The most critical areas are manufacturing, HVAC installation — especially commercial and industrial — construction, skilled trades, direct care medical, customer service, and education. Think of your customer service rep who just goes into the job. They're 23, 24 years old. They have not been trained adequately. They do not have good role models. The supervisors in customer service, especially call centers, are under an awful lot of pressure to produce. If you have the bridge generation mentoring and showing these people the better ways of doing things so that you have happy customers and you keep your customers and, again, retain your revenue.


The other area, again, is education. Far, far too many entry-level teachers are just tossed into the lake, and it's like swim. Stay afloat. Many are good floaters, but if they're not good floaters, they're going to sink. And the parents are not going to be happy; the children are not going to get educated; and that person will leave that school or leave the profession.


What I have seen as I am working with this group... Many of my clients are 50 years or older. And what I'm seeing is the quantity and the quality in the bridge generation is diminishing. I'm also very active with AARP. So I'm seeing the concerns of the senior worker, of those who have retired and why they have retired.And so you have to be mindful now as to how you are going to keep them.


Now if you are the workforce listening to this and you are a bridge generation, and you have all of these skills — the mentoring, the interpersonal communication, the skill, self-motivated, self-directed, let certain people know. Remember to display confidence, not arrogance. UseLinkedIn effectively. LinkedIn is a great tool for you — finding people and for the right people finding you.


Employers, become skilled at networking. Use LinkedIn effectively as well. Take a look at what the strong workforce is doing and do the same thing. Use your best employees who are already the bridge generation to find more. They can be your best recruiters. They are the ones who are active in the softball league. Maybe there's a coach for the volleyball. They know the parents. The bowling team. They all talk amongst themselves, so if they are happy with their employer and the employer is doing everything right, including effectively using the bridge generation, they're going to let other people know.


Those in your workforce who volunteer, again, they have all these connections. They're comfortable, usually, speaking with people and taking the initiative.


So these are the final recommendations that I have for employers. Recognize these traits. See how beneficial this is going to be for you. How is this going to maintain your continuity of services? And how are you going to be able to recruit and retain a quality workforce of all generations? Again, this is the bridge. These are the workers who form the bridge between your younger, less experienced workforce and the baby boomers who are retiring in greater numbers, and it's only going to accelerate as time goes by.


About Kathy Bornheimer






Kathy Bornheimer


Career and Employment Specialist, Speaker on dealing with Satisfying Employment


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