Generation Jones: 5 Reasons Why This Little-known Group of Workers May Be the Answer to a Growing Gap in the Workforce

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Job openings in the U.S. reached a record high in July 2017—a whopping 6.17 million, according to stats published by the Department of Labor. That’s roughly one opening for every job seeker, but business pages overflow with articles about employers struggling to fill positions, particularly in industries like manufacturing and distribution.

And yet there’s a hidden workforce that not only has a wealth of experience and maturity, it’s a group of people whose unique characteristics bridge the gap between soon-to-retire Boomers, and up and coming millennials. In their rush to build a 21st-century, tech-savvy workforce, employers often leap right to hiring GenXers and Millennials, passing over a goldmine of knowledge and experience sitting right under their noses—Generation Jones. I’m a Generation Jones, and believe me, it’s paid off in my career.

Wedged between Baby Boomers and GenX, the term “Generation Jones” was first coined by cultural commentator Jonathan Pontell, who found that formative experiences shared by people born between 1954 and 1965 were distinct enough from those of postwar Boomers that they should be considered a separate group. GenJones came of age in the 1970s, post-Vietnam and Watergate, and never got to ride the wave of idealism that drove earlier Boomers. Just missing the prosperity of the 50s and 60s, they were also left struggling—their moniker is inspired by the expressions “keeping up with the Joneses,” and “jonesing” for something more.

Generation Jones is now aged 52-63, and nearly fifty million strong in the US alone. Some experts say that GenJones’ political influence and buying power are massive, and only beginning to be understood. But the generation’s biggest contribution from this generation may be in the workforce. If employers look past the graying hair they just might see the answer to their recruiting problems.

Here are the top 5 reasons that hiring Generation Jones is a win-win for business:

1. Adaptability.

Recent studies by Nielsen and Pew Research found that younger Boomers are a driving force in the growth of technology. It’s no mystery—GenJones came of working age in the 1980s, on the cusp of the digital revolution. Faced with rapid technological changes in the workplace, Jonesers had to adapt or die, which has made them both tech-savvy and fearless about innovation. They came into the workforce at a time when personal computers were starting to gain momentum and quickly became exposed to personal computers and private networks. Many GenJones were early adopters that allowed them to embrace technology right out of the gate.

2. Experience

No amount of training can give a younger worker the wisdom, maturity and insight gained through 20+ years in the field. With their cumulative experience and strong grasp of process, GenJones is perfectly positioned to bridge the new digital culture and traditional manufacturing and distribution systems. Taking advantage of earned experience offers employers a secret weapon, and a competitive edge. In short – they understand the way things were and the way things are. It’s an invaluable part of their skillset.

3. Productivity.

According to Pew Research, more people 55-64 are working more, and plan to work longer than ever before. And a 2015 AARP report shows GenJones remains highly motivated and engaged — they’re committed to getting the job done, and done right. A 2013 study from the University of Michigan found that an aging workforce results in net gains in efficiency — as the age of a workforce increases, it becomes more productive. They bring a broader experience base and knowledge than that of any other generation, combining the ingenuity of millennials and the work ethic of Boomers. GenJones is not a generation that is winding down, in fact many are just getting started. According to several entrepreneur organizations, GenJones start or buy new businesses more than any other age group.

4. People Skills.

Along with expertise, Generation Jones brings the value of longstanding relationships on the job, not to mention all the old-fashioned, face-to-face people skills still needed in today’s high-tech workplaces. They embrace technology but understand the value of a human interaction. This works well particularly in B2B organizations, where the reality of the omni-channel approach is a hybrid model, not one that is 100% self-service.

5. Leadership.

Taking the reins doesn’t faze Generation Jones. People within GenJones are consistently ranked highest for decision-making and leadership, and regarded as productive, hardworking team players and mentors in internal surveys. The AARP study also found that workers age 50+ continue to be driven by career aspiration and career opportunities. GenJones are today’s workforce leaders, who often thrive in the role of mentor.

Understanding that the best workforce is a diverse workforce is key to an organization’s success. But it’s not true that Baby Boomers are all retiring. This group of Boomers are here for the long haul, and ready to not only provide leadership, but help train future generations along the way.

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