Aging In The Workplace

    In factories of the upper Midwest today, the available employee pool isn't what employers wish it was, in my opinion. It's been reported in business journals and newspapers previously, I realize, but I offer a first-hand viewpoint backed up by many of the Baby Boomers who are retiring faster than their roles can be filled. Forty percent attrition is now common place in industry across the region as new employees come and go on a whim, some walking off the job the same day they started.
     I recently met a young woman, at the toy factory, who, after I asked if she was summer help, answered she had been there two years. "Amazing!" I said, smacking myself in the forehead.
"I know." she said, smiling, seemingly quite proud of the fact.
    Maybe it's just me, but when I walk into the building some days, judging by the apparent age and appearance of my fellow co-workers, I feel as though I'm walking among the middle-school crowd. I am the odd one in the procession of backpacks, Mohawk haircuts of every color, studs in eyebrows, tongues, facial parts,  tattoos by the square foot, gangsta caps, shaved heads or wildly dyed-hair, baggy shorts with the crotch hanging down to the knees, untied shoes, and cellphones either pasted against their heads or all their attention riveted to it in their hands- - and those are just the women- -though sometimes you can't tell the difference anyway.
    Now thanks to employment efforts advertised nationally by the toy factory and supplied by a professional staffing service organization, this northern community has lost its homogenous appearance and become a global entity, an interesting blend of people from all over the United States. 
    The animated energy of the crowd slows as it enters the building. The guy? ahead of me, the person with his hair in corn-rows on one side of his scalp, wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt with cuffs extending past his hands, holds the door open for me. I thank him, to be cordial, though I don't think of myself so incapacitated that I need such assistance, but appreciate the gesture as it reflects parental training sometime in his life that he's retained.
    Congregating in the break area before their shift starts, milling about, they peruse the soft-drink refrigeration units and chip & candy displays, text messages, hold hands, kiss, embrace; if not for the obvious backdrop of multiple assembly lines and forklift traffic, an observer would think they were looking at a high school lunch queue.
    But it's just that I'm old enough to be their grandfather- -or great grandfather in some cases that I have this opinion, because when I was their age, older generations were lamenting the 'condition' of my generation: the Baby Boomers, those born after 1946 up until 1964, if I recall correctly. We were all long-haired hippie freaks, doing drugs, having lots of free sex, and the country would go to hell in a handbasket under our future leadership. 
    Okay, so they were right. Lucky guess. But my generation's little bit of history shouldn't reflect the future these kids have ahead of them. They'll come into their own, sooner or later.
    "You're how old??"


Popular Posts