Traditionalist employees are employees born before 1946 and are currently make up 5 - 10% of the workforce. Punctual, sharply dressed and proudly conservative they believe that hard work is it's own reward. They are probably also the one's signing your paychecks. They are survivors of hard times - the Great Depression, Two World Wars, and witness to the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Known to be loyal, self-sacrificing, and thrifty, many members of this group are military veterans, credit the GI Bill with jumpstarting their careers and, at work, operate on the military chain of command. It is therefore not surprising that Traditionalists best respond to a leadership modeled in a command-and-control structured hierarchy. Also worth noting, traditional gender roles and family structure were commonplace for this generation, with husbands working while wives cared for the home and children.
What do they bring to the table - They have established our present day workplace ethic and created the "white collar" job. They are "company men" and are loyal to their organizations. They also have exceptional problem-solving skills and the experience and knowledge of what has and has not worked in the past. This generation still tends to believe in the American dream and having achieved this dream they are now willing to "give back" and help others get there.
Good to know for coworkers - Many in this age group lack technological literacy and prefer face to face meetings, stopping by the office or using the phone instead of email or IM. They are excellent mentors to younger generations - tap in to their wealth of knowledge and learn the merits of meetings and one-on-one networking. Last, when speaking with Traditionalists in any context, take the time to really listen. Don’t interrupt and hold your questions until an appropriate pause. They will appreciate the courtesy.
Good to know for managers - Many in this age group thrive on verbal and public acknowledgment of their experience, value due process and appreciate having the reasoning behind decisions explained to them. These workers are also easing into pre-retirement and when motivated to remain in the work force, this age group is a good source of workers to offset the impending shortage of workers and expertise.
A new trend that is coming out of this segment of the aging workforce is the evolution of the Silver Entrepreneur - people who are starting their own businesses after retirement. Here's a short clip on the emergence of this trend: