This article is part of an ongoing series analyzing how baby boomers — those born from 1946-1964 in the U.S. — behave differently from other generations as consumers and in the workplace. The series also explores how the aging of the baby boomer generation will affect politics and well-being.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Despite U.S. baby boomers’ considerable years of experience in the workforce, they are no more likely than younger generations to say that they are able to use their strengths to do what they do best throughout the day. Overall, working baby boomers say they use their strengths to do what they do best an average of 6.9 hours a day, on par with 6.8 hours for Generation Xers and 6.7 hours for millennials.
These results from Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index surveys from Aug. 20 to Dec. 30, 2013, show that baby boomers are not alone. More than half of U.S. working adults overall do not use their strengths throughout the day, with 56% saying they use them for six hours or fewer each day.
Gallup defines strengths as activities for which one can consistently provide near-perfect performance. Individuals who report using their strengths have higher productivity, self-confidence, well-being, hope, and altruism. Gallup has spent more than a half-century studying human strengths, as chronicled in “StrengthsFinder 2.0” — the book with the longest stay on Amazon’s Top 100.
Baby Boomers in Workplace to Stay
Gallup finds that about one in two boomers intend to delay their retirement, meaning they likely will remain an influential part of the workforce in the years ahead. Employers can make the most of these surplus years by ensuring that boomers have more targeted opportunities to use their innate talents and accumulated expertise to achieve their full potential at work.
Additional Gallup research shows that organizations that help their employees identify their innate talents and position them in roles to use their strengths achieve higher performance outcomes, including greater productivity and profitability and lower turnover.
Baby Boomers Have a Talent for Developing Others
Gallup’s Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment tests respondents for 34 specific strengths and identifies each individual’s top five strengths. More than 9.7 million adults have taken the StrengthsFinder assessment worldwide, and the most common strengths in the StrengthsFinder database differ slightly by generation within this database.
While certain strengths overlap among these generational profiles, the Developer strength stands out as uniquely powerful among the baby boomers who have taken the assessment. People high in the Developer strength are adept at recognizing and cultivating potential in others. They excel at monitoring signs of improved performance and find personal satisfaction in helping others succeed.
Although the Gallup StrengthsFinder database is not a random sample of all Americans, the prevalence of the Developer strength among baby boomers who are in the database suggests that a focus on the attributes of Developers could be used fruitfully by companies and managers who deal with boomers in the years ahead.
Baby boomers have weathered sweeping economic, societal, and technological changes that have shaped the modern workplace, honing their talents, skills, and expertise along the way. They also have staying power, with many of them intending to remain in the workforce beyond traditional retirement age. Factor in the talent for developing others that seems to be prevalent in baby boomers who have taken the StrengthsFinder assessment, and it seems clear that these workers have the potential to bring even more value to their workplaces if they had more opportunities to use their strengths.
Developers make natural mentors, trainers, managers, and leaders, and with their wealth of work and life experiences, baby boomers would seem ideally suited to assume these roles at this point in their careers. This does not necessarily mean that every boomer has strong Developer talent and should automatically be promoted to management. Rather, companies should make an effort to identify and learn more about boomers’ individual strengths and position them in mentoring roles where they can easily share their expertise. Once they have the opportunity to fully develop their strengths, it would come naturally to baby boomers strong in Developer to act as catalysts in helping younger workers reach their potential.
For how many hours working Americans use their strengths to do what they do best each day are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index survey Aug. 20-Dec. 30, 2013, with a random sample of 76,141 working adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±0.4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup’s polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.
The Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment results highlighted in this article are from a random sample of 250,000 adult respondents who took the online assessment between 2008 to 2009. For each of the themes in this sample, the average rank of that theme has a 95% confidence interval of ±0.03 to ±0.04 (depending on the theme). The assessment is conducted online. These results are not nationally representative.