By Karen Graves
Age can be a touchy subject for many of us…
Most certainly for me, and I want to try and convey what I have learned and loved, from working in a multi-generational workplace along with just how much more productive, interesting and fun it can be. But first, a quote about this multi-generational world we now find ourselves in…
“The challenges of a multi-generational workforce can center around the view that older workers may perceive millennials as entitled, tech-obsessed or too eager to challenge norms while millennial employees could see previous generations as being ‘stuck in their ways’ and difficult to train.” Forbes magazine
Three-quarters of 25 – 34-year old’s consider themselves discriminated against for being too young, and over half of over 55s say they have been discriminated against unfavorably.’ 11/12/17 The Independent reported on a survey by CV Library 1400 respondents.
Influential figures such as Mark Zuckerberg don’t help the argument. In 2007 Zuckerberg famously once said that ‘young people are just smarter”. I wonder how that’s going for him now in 2018 aged 34...
I think it’s time we challenged these stereotypes
One of the big changes I’ve noted over the years is the uptick in the level of professionalism in the insurance industry - I do think we are more a market of choice for talented young people - for entry at any level. We have an abundance of talent and we need to work out how to use it better. When talent is referred to it is often aimed at younger people - millennials, etc. But talent comes in many packages and is not just the preserve of the young.
I’m not approaching this from a gender perspective. Age, and the aging process, is something we all share - it doesn’t matter if we are male, female, black, white, straight, lbgt etc. - we have this huge driver in common and leads us to want the same things, security, love, opportunity, fun, at different stages of our lives.
I love change and have always looked to find new ways of working or approaching things and whilst I know the perils of social media I do think we can try and harness the way technology has evolved and use it to our benefit. Every time we pick up a phone, iPad, whatever, we are potentially working - breaking the framework of the conventional working environment.
I do want to raise this as a point, as I admire the tech-savviness of younger colleagues. We are in the next industrial revolution and I think we need to change our attitude to the framework we find ourselves operating in. The construct of the working week can be different now - we are shoe-horning ourselves into an outdated structure - generally speaking, at the office every day, 5 days a week, set hours. I see young people using technology differently and I think we need to see this as an advantage and not a hinderance to business. Agility - we need to provide agility in our working structure - it will benefit the young, those wanting to return to work after a break and older professionals - where we can be physically present when needed to add value, and be less caught up in the need to be seen all the time. Sort of an age-appropriate working environment. Allied with this is the change in our working life-span. The full-time education, full-time employment, full-time retirement model is broken. We are all going to be working much longer! Major life events are happening later in our lives: maternity/paternity leave, caring for relatives etc. The change in retirement age and the need to work longer to finance our old age has arrived.
I try and practice some of my vision by mentoring, etc. and I’m a big fan of reverse-mentoring as well. As business leaders we need to know trends and understand what drives different generations. But mentoring can be encased in a programme with defined parameters. I’m thinking more about collaborative aims internally, where we work together differently. Perhaps when we have a project making sure that there is a breadth of experience in the team, don’t silo it, just because something is different or focused on tech issues or development it doesn’t mean that an experienced head can’t contribute. We are trying to be proactive with gender… let’s take that same drive and apply it to age, and that could break down more barriers.
Experienced colleagues can provide oversight, call on market experience, be supporters of young talent and most importantly listen to what is being asked for, providing advice tailored from years of experience. We can also contribute to the development and understanding of the softer skills, potentially - understanding how to communicate, how to present, how important networking is and also a sense of our personal brand. Our younger colleagues can give insight into new trends, let us know what drives them to be passionate about a business, what matters in how that company performs and behaves, and interacts with new generations of customers.
Years of service no longer guarantees seniority and, as digital skills become more important, older employees can be bypassed by younger workers speeding by as promotions are approached from a meritocratic stance. From a management perspective, colleagues are retiring later and there is a wider age gap to manage. We need to understand as businesses how this driver will affect us and our succession planning.
During the summer of 2018, I visited Adam Tobias, Partner at Inventum Search in London, a new type of search firm and consultancy specialising in Diversity & Inclusion.
Utilaising cutting edge technology and neuroscience, and their team's knowledge and networks, Inventum Search provide an inclusive executive search process and help businesses to implement D&I strategies, training and development. We made a short film together, entitled ' The Changing Nature of the Workforce in Insurance' where Adam and I discussed how age diversity is effecting the insurance industry...
1. Here are a few points about us oldies...
The Center for Economics and Business Research has stated older generations are the new entrepreneurs (so stick that in your pipe and smoke it Mr. Zuckerberg!) Entrepreneurs aged over 50 employed more people than start-ups run by younger individuals for the first time in 2016. There is a phrase - Olderpreneurs - not a big fan of made up words if I’m honest - but let’s go with it. In August 2017, research from Barclays Business Banking noted that the fastest-growing age group of UK business owners in the last 10 years has been the over 65’s.
A growing number of workers approaching retirement age are trying their hand at starting a business. The growth is centered around health, education and professional service sectors. The housing sector and start-ups relating to the arts and culture are also popular. Barclays came up with a list of 10 top business tips for mature entrepreneurs: but really this list is for all of us - young or old starting a business, and actually pretty relevant to all of those of us working in companies:
· Have confidence in your abilities
· Know your subject
· Know your business strategy inside and out
· Get tech-savvy
· Always take your time even if you feel like it is limited
· Look after your well-being
· Trust your gut instinct
· Find your passion
· Prioritise what is important to you
· Don’t be afraid to ask for help
2. It's not just the young who are positive and excited by work...
I love working, I really do, and want to continue to be excited and challenged at work - as I am getting older I do feel a bit of a pull to have a working environment that is more flexible. I do worry at 53 what my future looks like - a sense really that I’m still ambitious and want to know that my working environment is reflective of that and can meet my needs.
3. Older people are working harder to keep fit!
If I think about my grandparents at 53 they were very different. I would like to point out to future leaders, everyone, that I believe to be a good leader you need to be fit! I’m not preaching, I do this - in 2014 I did a London to Paris bike ride for MacMillan and raised 4.8k, in 2016 I ran (read crept) the London Marathon for a small local cancer charity and raised 5k. Looking for my next target.
4. Older people don’t necessarily want to slow down...
We may just want to engage differently in the workplace. This is always a personal choice, but hell I don’t want to slow down and if I can add some support to younger colleagues that’s great.
I think we are all pretty incredible actually - young and old. I have benefited from the advice and guidance from older colleagues on my career path - you don’t always have to seek them out, they just sort of appear sometimes. So, watch out for that.
I also appreciate the talents and outlook of younger colleagues. Without doubt, a working environment where you have a diverse team of people - different ages, backgrounds etc. - is the one which produces great ideas, drives change, contributes to a company’s strategy and, importantly, it is simply much more fun in a multi-generational, multi-talented space.
for Inventum Search
Independent Insurance Industry
Chair - iWin
(Independent Women In Insurance)