According to our survey of aged 60+ packaging professionals, more than 75% have been working in packaging for 25 years or more. Their input reveals the highs and lows of work life as a seasoned packaging professional.
We’re all getting older—and there are those of us who are further along that curve. According to AARP, every day 8,000 Baby Boomers in the U.S. turn 65, a trend that will continue until 2029.
As an important segment of our culture, these “Elder Boomers” possess a robust amount of work experience and intellectual property. With that in mind, we conducted a survey in February 2015 to gain feedback from packaging professionals who fit the general profile of those aged 60 and over.
First, a few highlights on our survey takers:
• Most (56%) work in either the food or beverage packaging markets.
• They have decades of experience. The vast majority have been working in packaging for 25+ years (87%).
• Nearly two-thirds (64%) work within the corporate/management, production/engineering/purchasing or marketing/design departments.
• Nearly 60% work for either a brand owner or packaging vendor.
Feedback and retirement plans
Now for a top-view summary: The good news is that 81% reported that their colleagues viewed them mainly as an asset, while a minority, 17%, reported that they were viewed as both an asset and an obstacle. Asked how their company viewed them, 70% felt that their experience was seen as an advantage, while 28% felt their experience was viewed as a mixed bag of positives and negatives.
We also asked them about their plans over the next five years: The majority (38%) plan to retire. That was followed closely by those planning to work fulltime (32%) and, further back, those planning to work part-time (21%). Less than 9% said they weren’t sure what their plans were.
What are your challenges?
We asked them what challenges they faced, and a number of the responses may resonate almost universally: frustrations with bureaucracy, internal changes and instability, people problems, getting budget approval, heavy travel, company politics, paperwork and more of that ilk.
A number of challenges were specific to their special situation as seniors such as these:
“Having enough energy to accomplish my objectives—I can't work the long days I used to.”
“The ‘elimination’ of the jobs of those nearing retirement age.”
“I feel that I am not being given challenging long-term projects any more. I believe that since the management expects me to retire soon, there is no point in giving me solid assignments. That is disappointing and leads to boredom.”
“Most people looking for packaging don't understand how tedious it is to bring about a package and what it entails. Hence, there is a long learning curve.”
“Some physical limitations have slowly eclipsed my desires to participate in machinery installations more fully as I had done in the past. I do not feel challenged in other areas—except with planning how to fill my days when I finally do retire."
On a more positive note, we also asked about what they find satisfying about their job. A popular response was “problem solving.” Verbatim responses (edited for grammar and context) include these that cross age distinctions: Interaction with customers, growing the business, seeing the results of efforts made in design of new containers, improving everything and learning new things.
Others were either specific or age-group specific:
“Making contributions from experiences and connections gathered over my career and being able to stay current with technology. I use 3D computer modeling software to design machinery for easy-open and reclosable features on flexible packaging.”
“I love what I do. As an individual contributor (sales) vs. management positions I have held in the past, I still love the taste of victory: solving customer problems, generating packaging solutions and winning customer purchase orders.”
“Knowing that the work I do ensures safe packaging for the consumers.”
“Creating new products and working with and on cross-functional teams to improve or create something better.”
“People value my analysis and perspective on the industry. I am free to say what I think without concerns about how it supports or conflicts with what's ‘best for the company.’"
“Using my more than 40 years’ technical experience to solve new challenges.”
“To respond and contribute to a wide set of packaging challenges. I know where to go and who to talk to get things done. Contributions in development make big impacts, globally.”
“Teaching younger engineers and operators the science behind the processes.”
“I’m always looking for new packing ideas and machinery that could help to improve on shipping of our products.”
“There is never a dull moment—my packaging life is dynamic. There are forever new packaging technologies to learn/embrace and new problems to solve.”
With that we thank our survey takers and all senior workers for a job well done, past, present and going forward. In the words of the dearly departed Mr. Spock of Star Trek, “May you live long and prosper.”