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AAC F A M I L Y & F R I E N D S


— some even younger because of a good retirement plan. Baby Boomers account for more than a quarter [26 percent] of the total U.S. population. Te title of this article is not meant to be offensive, rude,


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irreverent or to discriminate in any way — but simply to note that the county workforce has changed significantly and will continue to do so over the next few years. In January 2011 the oldest Baby Boomers turned 65 and every day over the next several years about 10,000 more will cross that threshold — every single day. About six years ago I broached this subject wondering how the mass exodus of Baby Boomers would af- fect the county work force. I’m revisiting the issue to see what is actually happening. Who are the Baby Boomers? I’m one of them. Tey are those of us born between 1946 and 1964 and depending on whose statistics you read, we are somewhere between 77 and 79 mil- lion strong. Te so-called leading-edge Boomers were born between 1946 and 1955 [which includes me], while those born between 1956 and 1964 are referred to as late Boomers. Te two groups differ in some very fundamental ways. Leading- edge Boomers, for instance, were eligible for the draft, but the draft lottery had ended by the time the late Boomers came of age. Leading-edge Boomers remember the family’s first black- and-white TV, while late Boomers grew up with a houseful of appliances. Leading-edge Boomers fought for a woman’s right to work, while late Boomers coped with working mothers. Te Boomers do, however, share some interesting traits. As a general rule we are individualists; we are nostalgic; we are young at heart; we are altruistic and spiritual; and we continue to pursue self-discovery and self-improvement. And whatever you do, don’t call us “old,” because we know for a certainty that old age doesn’t begin until a person is well into their 70s — maybe early 80s. Te comedian George Burns, who lived to be 100 years old, said, “Retirement at 65 is ridiculous. When I was 65 I still had pimples.” However, the reason for this article is not to figure out what makes the Boomers tick but to look at what impact, if any, the retirement of the Boomers is having on the county workforce in Arkansas. Te Labor Department has been saying for years that there simply are not enough Generation Xers [those born from 1965 through 1978] to replace Boomers and that those available from younger generations might not be as enthusiastic about making public service their careers. What’s been happening the past few years as Baby Boomers retire? And what will happen the next few years as more retire? Our counterparts in the private sector have learned that it is increasingly difficult to replace the skills, knowledge and exper-


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Out with the old, in with the new Seems


o you hear that rumble? It’s the big elephant, the whole Baby Boomer workforce that marches through like a herd of elephants — retiring! Some started at the age of 62 in 2008


tise Boomers take with them when they retire. A recent research project at the University of Kentucky col- lected evaluations from employers concerning their older workforce. Te respondents said that workers 50 or older are more reliable than the younger generation and they show up for work on time. Te study also revealed that the older work force has a stronger work ethic and that the younger worker is more likely to arrive late and leave early. Older workers’ experience makes them better able to manage problems and respond to emergencies, and it makes them valu- able mentors to the younger workers. Plus, the study concluded that older workers know how to deal with people better and provide better customer service. It almost goes without saying that Boomers are latecom- ers to the digital revolution. However, they are beginning to close the gadget and social media gap with younger genera- tions. For example, the Pew Research Center says that among younger Boomers, fully half now use social networks, com- pared with 20 percent in 2008. That rate of growth is more rapid than for younger generations. In fact, in their use of technology, the youngest Baby Boomers are nearly as likely to be online as younger adults. Also, more than half (55 per- cent) of older Boomers now watch online video, compared with 30 percent in 2008. And nearly two-thirds of Boomers say they follow the news most or all of the time. It is very important for those working in politics and the public arena to stay abreast of current events. It was the Boomers, for the most part, that have made the


To Me...


Eddie A. Jones County Consultant


conversion in county government from a manual system to a computerized or an electronic system. I will have to admit that some of us did it kicking and screaming, but we did it in order to move into today’s world. But, it is also the Boomers that have the laws, the regula- tions, the court cases, the AG opinions, the intrinsic formulas, the revenue and expenditure codes and all the other things that make county government work ingrained into their minds. Tey have more than a “software program” — they have knowledge. Tey can make county government work whether it is manual or electronic. It is incumbent upon those Baby Boomers that are still serv- ing in county government to teach the younger generations the “ins and outs” of county government. Don’t just leave them a package of software. At the same time, it is the responsibility of the younger generations, the Gen Xers and the Millennials to learn the laws, the formulas and everything else they need to know so that they actually understand what the “software” is


COUNTY LINES, FALL 2015


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