Did you know that Oct 01, 2015 celebrates the 25th anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons or IDOP? I did not, and was quite astonished at learning this fact.
It left me wondering … What has happened in the past twenty five years to acknowledge older persons and how does the marketplace define ‘an older person’? In fact, who exactly is an older person? More specifically what is too old and why? And how can we in the workplace, change these lack of distinctions to improve our advantage in a rapidly changing world, where population dynamics worldwide, are being defined as key development challenges for the 21st Century? (1)
As leaders in your organizations, how are you preparing for a future where your talent pipeline and talent development will need to look very different?
The Oxford Dictionary defines a senior citizen as “an elderly person, especially a person over 65. And the definition states that elderly refers to rather old, or past middle age.” Actually research shows that although there is no exact, commonly recognized age at which someone is considered ‘an older worker’, some studies suggest older than 55, while other studies examined those 45 years or older- quite an undefined range.
We get that the number 65 is measureable and policy driven, in order to receive benefits such as old age pensions, and senior discounts.
But in reality, it is only one number and in isolation. If your birthday falls between 1946 and 1964 you are a Boomer. Period. So, instead let’s consider workforce capability within new ranges of 45 to 65, 66 to 74 years old and yes, even 75 and up.
Sadly, mention these numbers and immediately what becomes evident in everyone’s mind is the stereotypical grey or white hair ineffectual older person. Suddenly maturity, wisdom and experience are deemed not of value. Invisibility sets in.
In fact, Dr Banaji in her book Blind Spot: Hidden biases of good people writes that 80% of Americans have a stronger young = good, than old= good association. Moreover in her research of over 15 years across dozen of studies, ageism is one the strongest implicit biases visible in every country including countries in Asia. (2)
Wow, that is a powerful bias for us to weaken, and the sooner the better.
Starting with a quote that is very applicable here; “If words create the world we live in” then what is a term that works? We hear words such as senior, mature worker, Boomer and my favorite, Zoomer.
But, before we can discuss Zoomers, we have to have a look at the business case, because it is all about the bottom line.
Here are a just a few facts to consider:
Compared with earlier generations and contemporary prime age workers:
- Today’s older worker is usually well educated (3)
- Workers between 60 and 74 are more productive than average workers who are younger (3)
- There is little evidence the aging workforce has hurt productivity (3)
- This year, Canada faces what demographers have dubbed ‘the cross over.” That is there will be more seniors than children. (4)
- Giving older people better work incentives and choices is crucial in the context of rapid population ageing and pressures on the sustainability of public social expenditures. (5)
Dr David Demke, a gerontologist describes Zoomers as AWESOMELY AGELESS Boomers. Zoomers do not fit the traditional stereotypes.
When younger, they were referred to as baby boomers because their dominant size influenced market trends. And they continue to create their own picture of what life can be. It may mean adventure traveling, or it may mean working longer. , they are pushing the boundaries of aging in a myriad of ways.
However with their departure, the work characteristics that the Baby Boomer generation has been defined by, like achievement, being results driven, competitive, optimistic, and people-oriented — may be lost unless companies creatively develop strategies to simultaneously retain older workers and transition their knowledge to younger workers. (6)
Earlier I asked; what are you doing to prepare for this redefinition of aging in your talent pipeline?
Here are just a few ideas to consider:
- Assess how retiring workers will affect your organization.
Think about lost institutional knowledge…and increased turnover costs as research shows younger cohorts leave jobs more frequently.
- Create a work environment that attracts qualified diverse employees of all ages. Consider what recruiting, engaging and retention practices would create a more inclusive culture … while focusing on weakening unconscious biases in these areas.
- Finally develop and offer appropriate, flexible work, and other reasonable accommodations that will encourage continued employment of skilled, older and or disabled employees.
The Bottom Line: Build an organization that attracts and retains top talent regardless of age in a way that makes you and your organization Future Proof and Future Strong!
- The United Nations General Assembly
- Banaji, M. R., & Greenwald, A. G. (2013). Blindspot: Hidden biases of good people. New York: Delacorte Press.
- Deggers-White, & Meyers.(2007).The Impact of Population again and delayed retirement on Workforce Productivity. Gary Burtless Centre for Retirement research at Boston College.
- Canadian Press (2012).
- Morton, Foster, & Sedlar.(2005) http://www.dol.gov/odep/pdf/NTAR_Employer_Strategies_Report.pdf