I love Baby Boomers! Most likely because I am one! Folks born from 1946 – 1964 make up one of the most blessed generations in history. We grew up in an era when life was simpler, and problems fewer, or so it seemed. The reality is that tasks in the business world were actually harder and frankly, could suck the life right out of you!

Take for example, the simple task of typing a letter. Before digital files existed, early baby boomers typed a letter on a manual typewriter or if you were lucky, a sleek IBM Selectric typewriter. But a simple transposition of letters could mean ripping out your paper and beginning again, if your correction tape didn’t line up well. Not a great way to spend your time. Once your letter was perfect, you sent it out by regular mail or possibly fax.

Today, we just open Microsoft Word and type away, highlight, move data here and there. And if you make a mistake, no problem, just a quick backspace, and you’re good to go. In fact, most times it will auto-correct the spelling for you. But most offices did not have PCs until the mid-1980s and email wasn’t widely prevalent until 1995, which means that some of the older boomers spent 20-30 years working with paper files. And in fact, in some industries—including healthcare—they push paper files even now.

Is it any wonder that so many baby boomers hesitate in using digital documents instead of paper ones? That’s what we grew up with and it feels, well … comfortable.

Leaving the comfort zone

To be efficient and more productive in this paperless world, it’s time for boomers to step out of their comfort zone. For some, it can be a daunting task, usually driven by fear. Fear of not being able to put their hands on a tangible paper document, fear of not finding it when they need it, and fear of making a mistake within the realms of technology. But as boomers working within a largely digital world, evolve we must. Here are a few ways to encourage us to let go of our paper security blanket.

Begin by giving us a compelling reason to change. Digital files allow for greater portability and are easily shared with co-workers through email. They are less expensive to process, and who doesn’t love saving money? Paperless documents cost hardly anything to store versus perma-file boxes and storage space. And, they are far easier to find and access on a minute’s notice than the painful search for paper forms.  

Start with something simple. A good place to start is to use a digital calendar instead of a printed one. They are simple to use and can be shared with co-workers. To-do lists are another great way to ease into the process, easily set up in Excel or Word. These two items alone can make a big impact on freeing up an employee’s workspace.

Spend some time in the operating system. Show the boomer there are folders and files in the digital world, too.  Help them set up a hierarchy of folders that can be easily searched. Put frequently used documents right on the desktop to be opened in an instant.

Repetition is key. All of us learn by doing. Have them practice storing some saved documents in folders and search for them, and then repeat! Once they see that their document is intact, safe and secure, their confidence will increase.

Scan in current paper documents. Take frequently used documents and scan them in. Store the paper ones in another room. Encourage use of the digitized documents. If the paper ones are less accessible, staff will rely more readily on the digital documents, but know they still have paper ones to fall back on in an emergency. After a short time experiencing the convenience and speed of digitized documents, the paper will be (happily) forgotten.

With a little nourishing and patience, you can guide your baby boomer to embrace the digital document world with confidence and put away their paper security blanket for good.

Hear how one regional hospital successfully moved staff from their paper comfort zone and cleared a path to efficiency and cost-savings. Watch the North Kansas City Hospital webinar.


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Beth Adams

Written by Beth Adams

In the tradition of John and Sam Adams, Beth is a founding mother of Access—helping to build the company from the ground up on day one. Now director of Administrative Services, she oversees all administrative functions for the company, including AR, AP, HR and much more. Just as importantly, Beth is a Sunday school secretary, mother of three and grandmother of six.