Baby boomers are out, Millennials are in, right?
At least, that’s what the media has been telling us the last few years, ever since 2015 when the U.S. Census Bureau announced that Millennials had surpassed Baby Boomers to become the largest demographic segment of the U.S. population, at that time outnumbering their older ancestors 83.1 million to 75.4 million.
Millennials are more numerous, more tech savvy, and better at the digital business tactics needed for success in today’s new, IoT-driven economy—or so the story goes.
But not so fast. While the rise of Millennials is certainly a noteworthy trend, Baby Boomers also remain competitive in today’s digital economy. The Internet of Things knows no demographic bounds, and it’s opening up connected business opportunities for Baby Boomers as well as Millennials. In fact, nearly one quarter of all new entrepreneurs are over the age of 50, and that number is growing, Kauffman Foundation data shows. Baby Boomers continue to make up nearly one-third of the American workforce, Census Bureau data shows. Here’s a look at some reasons Baby Boomers remain a force to be reckoned with in today’s IoT-oriented economy.
Baby Boomers Are Becoming More Tech-savvy
While Baby Boomers didn’t grow up on smartphones like Millennials, they are the generation who invented the smartphone, as well as the PC and the Internet, and they’ve been catching up on the latest technology. Baby Boomer adoption of digital technology has accelerated rapidly in recent years, with smartphone ownership by Boomers growing from 25 percent in 2011 to 67 percent in 2018, Pew Research Center data shows. Meanwhile, 52 percent of Baby Boomers now own tablets, 57 percent use social media, and 83 percent are online. Baby Boomers are quickly closing the tech gap with Millennials and becoming increasingly familiar and comfortable with the tech tools needed to succeed in an IoT-driven economy full of connected objects and services.
Baby Boomers Have Deeper Networks
While Millennials may maintain a technology edge over Baby Boomers, Boomers have a distinct advantage in another area crucial for success in a digital economy: networking. In his book “The Seventh Sense,” Kissinger Associates co-chief executive Joshua Cooper Ramo argues that the constantly-connected nature of the Internet makes networks a key feature in today’s IoT-centered economy. Ramo sees networks as a revolutionary force comparable in impact to the Industrial Revolution, and he identifies an instinct for managing networks as a critical to success in today’s world. Baby Boomers’ age works to their advantage here, since they have had more years than younger generations to build their networks, and are more likely to have connections with senior management and established companies. This can be leveraged to forge connections and take advantage of the new business opportunities created by the IoT.
Baby Boomers Have Transferable Skills and Experience
If you’re an employer hiring an employee or contractor, would you feel more confident in a worker with two years of experience or 35 years of experience? Baby Boomers have valuable business skill sets and years of insight that are difficult to easily replace, as employers recognize. Over nine in 10 employers are taking steps to encourage their older workers to stay with the company longer, such as allowing them to work from home, a LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute study found. Baby Boomers’ in-demand skill sets encompass areas that go beyond technology, such as financial insight, project management experience, and marketing and sales knowledge. These skills if properly adjusted to the new business models associated to the Internet of Things, empower Baby Boomers to bolster their employers or succeed as entrepreneurs. In combination with digital skills, these traditional workplace skills give Boomers the potential to be extremely agile on the Internet of Things.
Growing tech savvy, deep social networks, and well-honed agile skill sets give baby boomers the tools needed to succeed in the IoT-driven economy. On the Internet of Things, anyone can succeed no matter their age, and years of experience is an asset.