Can you train people to have positive attitudes? Can you break through certain long-held beliefs that people have about older workers? Does the younger generation of workers respect their elders? Do they even use the word "elder"?
With all the news about retiring (or not) baby boomers I´m wondering if you can actually influence the way people look at older workers. The younger generation of workers like to bottom line things more quickly. That is, they want to know what they need to do to get what they want really, really quickly. Yes, some want easy fixes, but as a group they also want to know what they need to be successful in work so that they can also succeed in their personal lives. They watched they baby boomer parents work their tails off and don´t necessarily want that for themselves. Where a baby boomer might have dug a little to get what he or she wanted younger generations want their answers more quickly.
Clearly, they´ve been trained. We had to dig for information (okay, I´m a boomer . . . )-crawling through the library stacks, staring through microfiche machines to find that one magical statistic, even visiting esoteric places to get some corporate history somewhere. Imagine how different the baby boomers´ world had been if we´d had the Internet back when we first started working? We´re more accustomed to waiting than our younger counterparts. Still, we´ve also grown weary of slow machines and minimal storage space.
Still, there are differences between the generations and if an employee has never had to give a lot of thought to ageism and its effects in the workplace who´s to say they´ll ever begin to really care? If you give your younger employees a reason to care, then they´ll care. You have to connect a possible brain drain with their success. In other words, you need to show them how one person leaving will affect their ability to succeed. Okay, so maybe it´s not one person´s departure but many. You get the idea though: you need to show some real cause and effect here. Hand them statistics; provide case histories that point to a more senior person´s involvement with a successful project. Frame your strategy in a way that has a direct impact on the younger people at your company. Give them a reason to care. Show them the value that the more experienced people have given the company and try to draw a direct line between these older stars and your happy customers.
And as one astute reader pointed out, throw something in about your baby boomers´ contributions toward upholding your company´s tradition.