Preparing for, and accepting, the changing workplace

I couldn't help but notice a subtle jab directed at LinkedIn, the social media website dedicated to professionals, and the not-so-subtle poke at social media in general by one of this paper's frequent and most cogent contributing writers ("Are you LinkedIn or linked out," Jan. 13-26 NHBR). Although I agree with the point that time is too valuable to waste on frivolous or trivial matters, I was nevertheless struck by the tone of the piece, which places it as an example of a problem older generation workers have in succeeding in today's job market.

As I've indicated in earlier contributions, we are living through a period of age bias when it comes to hiring mature workers, many of whom were laid off aggressively during the recession. To date, much of this age cohort is struggling to get re-employed. A key reason for the reluctance to bring mature workers back on board, despite their vast experience and accumulated wisdom, is because they are not keeping up with, and in many cases resisting, technological changes that are largely being driven by the generation of their children. And with each passing day it is this emerging section of the workforce that is setting hiring policies.

Rapid innovations of a technological nature seem to fall into two main interrelated areas: information search/management and interpersonal connectivity. Efficiently reaching out to grab the data you want when you need it and connecting to people you need when you want them drives much of the hardware, software and Web-based applications currently available and under development.The necessity of achieving this efficiency is reflected in many workplaces today, and that is expected to grow in time. As a result, the current and future workforce is expected to be adept with the tools and apps of information management and connectivity.

Just as many employees now are expected to use email and word processors, a similar familiarity is becoming expected with various types of social media and Internet navigation.

Show flexibility

There is no question that keeping up with these new demands can be daunting and intimidating for some, particularly for the older folks among us.

When we look at the younger generation and see that their daily use of Facebook and smartphones is as common to them as telephone and television are to us, it can leave us feeling out of touch. One option often taken is to develop an attitude that the way these young people act is superficial, misguided, or even wrong. We think that we got by just fine without these gadgets and that these changes are not necessary. Now does it sound familiar from our distant past to boomers that an older generation just didn't get the younger one?

The larger issue is accepting change. Adaptability is one of the most important and employable traits a person can have, especially during the time of exponential change we live in now.

Unfortunately, older workers are too often feeding the perception that we are not adaptable and even potential impediments to innovation. When we observe a now common practice and describe it as a bandwagon or fad, we place ourselves out of the new mainstream. And if you're trying to present yourself as relevant in today's workplace, this is not a message you should be broadcasting.

The challenge for mature workers is to merge their attributes of solid work ethic, tenacity and big-picture viewpoint with the obvious and fluid developments of conducting business in the modern era. We don't have to necessarily embrace and personally adopt every new practice, but it is in our interests to at least try to understand the trends that underlie them.

When you think about it, baby boomers were the ones who once prided themselves on agitating traditional thinking and set out to create a new world. If any generation should be able to show flexibility and have an appreciation for new ways of doing things, it should be them.

Bill Ryan, founder of Ryan Career Services LLC, Concord, also is a regular blogger on the NHBR Network. He can be reached at 603-724-2289 or