You can learn a lot by observing and asking questions. But to shake things up, you have to get real ticked off about the important things that need fixing. The dangerous alternative is complacency.

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Baby Boomer Crisis, Part 2

Baby Boomer Crisis, Part 1

Gamification Concepts Applied to Workplace, Part 2

Gamification Concepts Applied to Workplace

Understanding the Generational Divide, Part 4

Baby Boomer Crisis, Part 2

It’s hard to find definitive numbers, but I’d estimate that less than 25 percent of boomers – and it’s probably considerably less – can’t afford to retire.

Depending upon the source, the organization compiling the data, preparing the studies and conducting the surveys, numbers vary greatly. But the bottom line is most boomers have either postponed retirement or don’t envision it in either the near- or long-term. To meet their financial obligations, they must continue working for as long as they can.

Here are a few recent statistics:
A Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies study found that 65 percent of baby boomers plan to work past age 65 or do not plan to retire (52 percent). Others expect to continue working on a part-time basis (42 percent). Most boomers who plan to continue working said they need the income or to cover health benefits.

A Transamerica spokesperson said, “Baby Boomers are not being sufficiently proactive about taking important steps to help ensure that they continue working beyond 65 or have a Plan B if retirement happens unexpectedly.”

Additionally, the study found that many (65 percent) are staying healthy so they can continue working; 41 percent are keeping their job skills up to date; 16 percent are networking and meeting new people; 14 percent are scoping out the employment market and possible opportunities; and 26 percent have a backup plan if forced into full retirement sooner than expected due to health issues, job loss or other unforeseen circumstances.

An AARP study revealed that more than 9 million American ages 65 and older can’t afford to pay for basic living expenses. Nearly half (47 percent) of the 20 million Americans age 65 and older in the U.S. who live alone or with a spouse can’t afford to meet their daily needs, such as prescription drugs and food costs.

It’s no wonder AARP buried their emphasis on retirement by shrinking their name to the nebulous AARP.

Retirement is just one of the baby boomers’ big disappointments. Let’s not lose sight of this generation’s place in history. This was a generation that was riding high. Once young, and rebellious, they saw themselves as the generation that would make the world a better place. They thought they were immortal, an indestructible force that would accomplish great things.

P.J. O’Rourke, author of “The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way (And It Wasn't My Fault) (And I'll Never Do It Again),” called the boomers the “largest, richest, best-educated generation of Americans, the favored children of a strong, confident and prosperous country.”

But the boomers made some big mistakes. One of them was never planning on getting older. They thought they’d stay young forever. They invested billions in anti-aging remedies, and cosmetic surgery. They elevated cosmetic surgery into a niche industry. And they exercised obsessively in an effort to keep themselves fit, lean and youthful. But they were all futile efforts, because no matter what they did they couldn’t stop their biological time clock. Mother Nature wasn’t about to be fooled. Despite all their desperate efforts to look young, they got older and they started to look older. Their biology got the better of them. Their hair thinned, turned gray, white or they went bald. The added pounds, and despite their best efforts, the wrinkles and lines could, at best, be temporarily removed. But they returned.

If coping with aging wasn’t difficult enough to digest, they never imagined that their culture would reject and dismiss them because they got older.  Although they were largely responsible for creating an ageist culture that rejected old people, they found themselves in the enemy camp when employers refused to hire them because they deemed them over the hill, redundant, out-of-touch, stuck in their ways – victims of all the myths associated with aging.  They never thought they’d be victims of age discrimination.

And that’s not all. More on the subject in my next blog. 

Posted on: August 29, 2014 06:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Baby Boomer Crisis, Part 1

Baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) are in the news these days. They’ll continue to make headlines for the next decade-and-a-half.   There are many reasons why they’re getting a lot of attention, and it’s not solely because of their record numbers. It’s because things didn’t work out as expected for this historic generation.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up a few years to 2011 when the oldest boomers turns 65 – 78 million to be exact. From that point on ever day for the next 19 years, 10,000 boomers turn 65. From comprising 13 percent of the U.S. population in 2011, by 2030 when the youngest boomers turn 65, the boomers will make up an 18 percent of the population. That’s a whole lot of human capital, as the HR folks would say.  

The baby boomers are an historic generation.  And it’s not just because of their sheer size. That’s why they’re a bunch of boomer websites, and new ones are starting up every month. Check out LinkedIn and Facebook and you’ll find a slew of boomer groups. Even AARP’s magazine and website is giving the boomers a lot of ink.  Unfortunately, many of the stories are how-to, mediocre, and many are inaccurate, especially the ones about retirement. 

The fact that the AARP changed its name in 1999 from the American Association of Retired Persons to AARP, yet never explained the reason for it is a revealing omission, as this reporter sees it. In fact, I had to hunt for the “About” section on its site, which is buried on the bottom of the site. It says nothing but the reason for the name change, and focuses on its nonprofit status and its 37 million members. Another source said its membership was 40 million.

I’m guessing that many of its members and non-members as well, have no idea what AARP stands for, and certainly why it changed its name. It’s not because it’s shorter, easy to remember, and because Americans love acronyms.  It’s because the ranks of retired boomers shrink every year, which points up another boomer dilemma: Most boomers can’t afford to retire.  A logical assumption is that when the AARP was founded under its former title, the content was targeted at retired people, most of whom fell into the boomer cohort, or close to it, pre-boomers or were on the cusp. Back then, a good chunk of the content was written for retired older people – best places to live for retirees, best ways to spend their time when retired, and retirement careers, which I assume are for bored retirees who miss working but who don’t need the money.

It’s a different story today. As the number of boomers crossing the 65 line increases every day, it’s more than apparent that fewer and fewer can afford to retire. So retirement, once the coveted goal of boomers turning 60 and 65 is rapidly become a myth.

Stay tuned. More on the baby boomer crisis in my next blog.

Posted on: August 28, 2014 04:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Gamification Concepts Applied to Workplace, Part 2

Steve Sims, formerly an executive producer at Electronic Arts and EA Online, and now chief design officer and founder at Behavior Lab, has been studying and employing gamification strategies for more than two decades. 

Gamification can easily be adopted in the workplace, according to Sims. He cites the following examples: onboarding and recruiting; human capital management (HCM); learning and training; community and social collaboration; ideation and innovation; performance management; and policy compliance (travel expenses).

Sims said that some of the above are competitive, others collaborative, and some aren’t performance based. To launch a successful gamification program, Sims said the following eight tenets should be followed:

  1. Understand users. Obviously all users are different. If you expect to motivate them, you have to understand their values, goals and what matters to them.
  2. Use appropriate features design.Sims maintains that an implementation can go wrong when a motivational feature is used in the wrong context. Competitive elements, for example, may not work in collaborative work environments, and task lists may fail where creative roles are concerned. In sum, make sure the right tool is used for a job.
  3. Transparency is vital. To be successful, programs need to be transparent, said Sims. Users must know the rules. For example, what is expected of them? Who will see it? And who won’t see it?
  4. Keep it positive.Sims cautions that social proof can be used in a negative context to embarrass poor performance into compliance, special care ought to be taken to set up a positive environment that rewards progress and accomplishment. Employees should that success is attainable.
  5. Respect the organization’s culture.  “Where you implement is almost as important as what you implement,” said Sims. There is profound truth in the “One size does not fit all” tenet. Organizations need to adapt reward systems, for example, that work. Cultural differences have to be respected, as well as the values of the organization and users, said Sims.
  6. Respect employment laws and privacy.Every country defines acceptable behavior differently. Sims said it’s important to respect local laws when launching a gamification strategy.
  7. Be inclusive.Challenges build camaraderie and sense of purpose, Sims said.
  8. Keep experience fresh.  Boredom can sound the death knell in a workplace. “People crave novelty,” said Sims. Programs that don’t change will quickly become boring. Program designers must keep programs interesting and exciting.

The fact that most organizations measure workers’ performance is an obvious given. Sims strongly believes that gamifcation can be an equalizer because it clarifies rules and makes them universal. Sims’ guidelines point up the importance of understanding companies, their cultures and other defining factors. If they’re not followed gamification can fail dismally. As Sims puts it, “An engaged employee is a productive employee.”

It concept, gamification makes sense. Still, I seriously doubt whether it can be adapted to all workplaces. Sims and other gamification proponents believe that under the right conditions, the concept can be applied to jobs in all industries. Possibly. What irks me about gamification — unless I’m missing the point — is that employees are being manipulated. They’re like puppets on a string that are being manipulated by the puppeteer. That notion disturbs. And why must all jobs be fun? Dangerous jobs, for example, that depend upon strength, endurance, courage and the mental fortitude to react quickly in life-threatening situations are not suppose to be fun — especially when lives are at stake. Its practitioners ought to know what they’re getting into, and should be taught how to deal with the job’s harsh realities. 

Posted on: August 28, 2014 04:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Gamification Concepts Applied to Workplace

Most programmers and IT developers are familiar with the term gamification. I doubt if the average consumer ever heard of the word. It’s not a word even ardent tech gadget wizards use every day.  If unfamiliar with the word, read Nick Pelling’s blog, (  

In 2002, Pelling, a game developer, created a games user-interface that could be used to “turbo-charge all manner of transactions and activities on commercial electronic devices,” as Pelling described it.  Specifically, in-flight video, ATM machines, vending machines, and mobile phones.  This was when he coined the term “gamification,” which he defined as “applying game-like accelerated user interface design to make electronic transaction both enjoyable and fast.”  

Back then, Pelling said he was much more interested in applying gamification ideas to electronic devices than to the Web. He didn’t know he was breaking new technology ground, and that it wasn’t long before gamification concepts would be adopted in the workplace.

Imagine revamping tedious, monotonous, hopelessly boring jobs and making them as much fun as playing a video game? Nice concept, but it seems like an outrageous stretch. Maybe not. Stay with me because it’s fascinating how the gamification concept not only triggered a new technology niche and accompanying jobs, but how organizations incorporated it to incentivize and motivate their workers.

Research company Gartner predicts that by 2015, gamified services for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon, and more than 70 percent of global 2000 companies will be employing at least one gamified application.      

According to Officevibe, a consulting company that improves organizational cultures by creating fun and productive atmospheres, 89 percent of employers said that their people leave for more money, but only 12 percent of employees actually leave for more money; and 70 percent of Forbes Global 2000 companies use gamification strategies to boost engagement, retention and revenues.

Concur Technologies, a company that provides Web-based corporate expense report software, quoted a Gallup report that found that productivity metrics are at an all-time low in the U.S., with 70 percent of the workforce reporting that they are “disengaged” or “actively disengaged” at work.

To reverse declining engagement trends, many companies are adopting gamification strategies, according to an article posted on Concur Technologies’ website.  The story went on to explain how some of Concur’s well-known corporate clients employed gamification to boost employee engagement and productivity.

But there is more to say about gamification. In my next blog, I’ll explain how it’s being used to improve performance in the office.


Posted on: August 26, 2014 07:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Understanding the Generational Divide, Part 4

The JWT survey mentioned in my last blog said millennials are facing a potential blowback from other generations in the workforce because of technology. It seems ludicrous that baby boomers could criticize them for being technically savvy.  They grew up with the technological devices that boomers had to learn from scratch.

As for millennials' loyalty to their employers, the JWT survey said that "millennials are loyal and great employees if companies take the time to make adjustments within their cultures to engage them and understand their needs."   

Another bone of contention for baby boomers with a chip on their shoulders is the belief that millennials are unmotivated because they have it too easy. What better example is that many of them are returning home to live with their parents after college? But according to the JWT study, only 15 percent of millennials reported living with their parents.

Some of the post-college surveys show that millennials are moving back home for a short period of time to get their feet steady," said Bea Fields, president of Bea Fields Co. Inc, a Southern Pines, N.C.-based leadership and Gen Y consultancy, and co-author of the book “Millennial Leaders.”

Many baby boomers, on the other hand, have an over-inflated sense of their own importance, according to Wikipedia.

In P.J. O’Rourke’s book, “The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way (And It Wasn’t My Fault) (And I’ll Never Do It Again)”, described boomers as the “largest, richest, best-educated generation of Americans, the favored children of a strong, confident and prosperous country.” Yet, O’Rourke said that “other generations call us, spoiled brats.”

The boomers ought to think twice about criticizing the millennials.  While the boomers have been credited with changing the world and a long list of accomplishments, they also made plenty of mistakes, many of which can be traced to an ill-founded cockiness and lack of humility.

While impossible to attribute universal characteristics to an enormous generation, pundits have gone overboard writing about the historical impact of the baby boomer generation.  The boomers are associated with a “rejection or redefinition of traditional values,” said Wikipedia. The boomers are associated with privilege, because many grew up during a time where there were widespread government subsidies in education and post-war housing. They’re been described as the most active and most physically fit generation. They were optimistic, and idealistic, but were criticized as spoiled and given to excessive spending.  They thought of themselves as special, entitled and they rejected traditional values.

Compared to the boomers and millennials and the GenExers are a refreshing historical middle ground. The GenExers have been described as autonomous, adaptable, self-reliant, independent, and respectful of authority.  In the workplace, they’ve been praised as productive, free agents, flexible, technically competent and comfortable with authority.

I’ve said enough about the generational divide. When it comes down the proverbial bottom line, aren’t we making far too much of it? Rather than focusing on negative traits and behaviors, wouldn’t it be more constructive if we concentrated on learning and sharing information? They’re the seeds for growth, change and a better world. 

Posted on: July 28, 2014 08:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

"There are two types of people in this world, good and bad. The good sleep better, but the bad seem to enjoy the waking hours much more."

- Woody Allen