This late-summer headline in Forbes, “Market Basket: The Return of Boomer Activism,” spoke volumes about the Boomer Renaissance trend we have been tracking.
The boomer-dominated workforce of Market Basket, a New England-based chain of grocery stores, roared in collective defiance as the company’s board of directors removed the chain’s employee-friendly president as a means to improve financial performance by presumably implementing policies that would be less friendly to employees.
As Forbes reported in August, Market Basket employees “successfully undertook a high-risk job action with potentially historic repercussions. But this was more than just a fight for leadership control. It was also a story about boomers standing up for workplace values.”
On one level, this is a story about family squabbles over how best to run the chain. At the start of the summer, the board fired company President Arthur DeMoulas, whose family owned 49 percent of the company, while other family members, who opposed his leadership, owned 51 percent.
With 71 stores to operate and 25,000 employees to manage, Market Basket had earned a reputation as a family-run chain that valued employee participation and well-being. But pensions and salaries that buck dominant trend lines were not in the best interests of the main stakeholders. That’s why DeMoulas was ousted.
But the boomer-worker-led uprising worked. Even customers joined in. Before too long, DeMoulas was able to buy back his opposition’s shares and assume his old leadership role.
Most relevant to our Boomer Renaissance trend line is how Lauren Stiller Rikleen, author of the Forbes article, summed up the summer-long drama: “Market Basket’s activist boomers, I believe, helped reinvigorate a needed debate about corporate stewardship and whether management’s primary financial path should be a focus on short-term dividends to shareholders or on additional investments in growth, employee pay and benefits to develop a stable and loyal workforce.”
The Boomer Renaissance was one of the Trends Research Institute’s top trends for 2014. In presenting our forecast, we wrote: “A number of myths regarding the performance of older workers and their suitability for the modern workforce contribute to age bias, on both institutionalized and subconscious levels. Older workers, the myths contend, are set in their ways, technophobic, unexcited about challenges, too expensive, etc. Yet, a growing body of scientific studies — psychological and biological — indicates that, as people age, their capacity to innovate, create and productively channel life experiences are all enhanced.”
And returning core values to the workplace is included in this trend line.