Monthly Archives: October 2013

Leveraging Today’s Workforce for a Competitive Advantage

Traditional employment models and traditional retirement models are changing daily as 10,000 Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964 celebrate a 65th birthday — previously coined “retirement age”.  The aging of the workforce presents employers with challenges related to compensation, retirement, work preferences, knowledge transfer, and so much more. This environment demands a methodical and holistic strategy for managing a multi-generational workforce.

This article will summarize the @Fedcap hosted #SolutionSeries  with a guest panel that included Dick Cattani of the Compass Group, Dr. Kathleen Christensen of the Working Longer Program of the Alfred P Sloan Foundation and Sandra Timmermann, Founder of the MetLife Mature Market Institute.  The discussion focused on today’s changing workplace demographics.

One of the first things to acknowledge within this transformational change is the wide variety of nomenclature that is used to address the individuals that sit smack in the center of this demographic shift.  During the 45 minute panel discussion, reference was made to:

  • The Baby Boomers
  • High Potential Late Career Individuals
  • Older Workers
  • Aging Americans
  • Those preparing to Age Gracefully
  • Seniors
  • Transitioning Employees
  • And, a few more phrases!

So what are some of the impacts that this aging workforce is creating in the marketplace:

Our longer life expectancies have created a 30 year retirement after a 40 year career. Uh-oh!

Perhaps the word retirement needs to be redefined to reflect a life stage that occurs much, much later in one’s lifetime. Employers need to start thinking about a longer working period during which individuals are looking for a balanced life that includes continued work, play, volunteerism and more.

The objective is for work: life balance, not workplace separation or a career conclusion.  In fact, just the other day my friend Judy, who recently made a retirement agreement with her corporate employer defined retirement as “the ability to work on my terms” – no change to her work ethics or to the  ferocious vigor that she pursues in her work – but, “on her terms”!

The time is ripe for new models of worker engagement.

A diverse workforce needs to include the aging American work patterns.

“Businesses are not thinking about an older workforce except for graceful exits” said Dr. Kathleen Christensen. “Business has spent a lot of time recently creating a diverse workforce” said Dick Cattani, and the definition of diversity did not include the aging workforce.

Hearsay conversations revealed mixed findings on those corporations that are putting formal programs in place to respond to the aging worker trend.

Employers are fast realizing that the aging worker population presents a complex employee profile.  

Our lifecycles include Adult 2.0

Timmermann referenced a new lifecycle stage called Adult 2.0. Others have referenced this period as our Encore years, our Second Act or Life Reimagined. For Timmerman, the 21st century creation of Adult 2.0 is similar to the recognition of the adolescent life stage during the 1930’s; it is a unique period of time filled with change, growth, exploration and experimentation.

With the creation of adult 2.0, we move through life in five stages: childhood, adolescence, adulthood, adulthood 2.0 and old age.

Employers will want to take another look at this new generation of 2.0 adults and remember that most are Boomers who influenced so many aspects of society as they moved through the last several decades. Whether these trailblazers continue to work or become agents of change in their communities, they will define what it means to live and to contribute in this new stage of life, now and for future generations.

Look around – for many — 2.0 includes many re-incarnations of their identity, incorporating new talents, hobbies and relaxed attitudes!

Millennial and Boomers have more in common than first appears! Think Work: Life Balance 

When talking to the win-win that flex-scheduling can provide, imagine the impact on a millennial, born after 1980, whose flex schedule allows them more time with their young children. Simultaneously imagine the Baby Boomer, born between 1946 and 1964, whose flexible schedule allows them more time to pursue their hobbies, their volunteer interests or their family caregiver commitments.

Scheduled in a complimentary fashion, the millennial employee, the boomer employer and the employer have all received flexibility which meets their needs. Everyone wins. Everyone feels better and everyone believes that they have achieved some sense of control in their work: life balance.

Flexible Work Schedules are Strategic Tools for Developing Human Capital 

The panelists acknowledged that numerous studies have shown the positive impact on productivity, employee engagement and employee satisfaction levels when flexible working schedules are employed.  To do this necessitates a culture of respect and trust and will evolve through a new style of win-win negotiation in the workplace. “Companies should not view flex-schedules as an employee accommodation or an employee perk, but rather as a strategic business tool that they use to strengthen their employee capital “, said Dr. Christensen.

Boomer Weaknesses and Millennial Strengths often Mirror Each Other 

Example #1:  Strategic thinking, the ability to lead through a crisis, and a brain-bank of Best Practices are traits most likely achieved only through the tenure and experience of someone aged 50 plus. Technological literacy and the use of social media channels may (or may not) be easier for the millennial.

Put together correctly, the productivity outputs of this duo can be multiplicative.

Panelists referenced the creation of mixed-age teams that have been empirically tested in Europe and the results showed that the inter-generational teams proved most productive and gratified for all participants.

Example #2: Boomers and millennials want to do good work and they want to be recognized for same. Careers take on many variations of a bell curve; for many Baby Boomers in traditional corporate backgrounds, they spent the decades of their 30-50 years climbing the corporate ladder and playing the political games. In the traditional workforce the millennial are now entering the heat of their ladder-climbing career stage.

Team efforts which allow for coaching, mentoring and knowledge transference can benefit both employer and employee alike.

Companies have a bias against the older worker  

In an AARP survey of registered NYC voters over the age of 50, one third said that they or someone they know has experienced age discrimination in the workplace. Myths, stereotypes and biases are common.

Companies have a bias against the older worker. Wikipedia defines a company as “an association or collection of individuals, people or “warm-bodies” …. Company members share a common purpose and unite in order to focus their various talents and organize their collectively available skills or resources to achieve specific, declared goals……”

We change companies by changing the individuals who make decisions for companies. 

  • What is your business doing to recruit, engage and retain talented employees at different career stages?
  • How does your business use a multi-generational approach to creating work teams across the organization?

Repeat: We change companies by changing the individuals who make decisions for companies.  

Healthy, well-educated, enthusiastic people of all ages want to have a seat at the table. It is one’s attitude, not one’s age that defines one’s abilities to make a difference!

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The FedCap Solution Series gathers employers’ nonprofits, advocates and other thought-leaders to analyze the barriers between Americans and economic independence – and to develop informed and actionable plans to break through those barriers. The Fedcap Solution Series is designed to trigger discussions and frame the questions that ultimately lead to the right solutions

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Location. Location. Environment. Environment

Location. Location. Location. This has long-been the mantra in the real estate industry. I propose an extension of this mantra which says: Location. Location. Environment. Environment. The environment that you set up for your work, home, study and communications is as important as the physical location.

I recently learned of a wonderful woman who was looking to launch a think-tank for entrepreneurial start-ups. Her twist on the concept was great and I looked forward to getting the announcement details for the kick-off event. Her meet-up announcement drew a strong response. So why did so very few people show up to the meeting? The location, while conveniently located and free to the facilitator—-was to be held on the second floor conference room of a funeral parlor. Location and environment need to work together.

A recent retiree was excited to start taking classes at her local community center. She read the website and the catalog in detail and chose a selection of programs. Her first day of class, she noticed a sign on the building that she never took note of previously; it read: “Senior Center”. The woman felt horrible and while she knew that both the class and the other class participants were young and vibrant, she gets a knot in her stomach every time she enters the building and sees the words “senior center”. Nuances in one’s environment can make all the difference.

Years ago a decorator told me how they were asked to create a working space for a young student with ADD, poor grades and a frustrated attitude toward his school work. As the story was told, the decorator’s chest popped outward and his shoulders squared back—“I designed a working area for that student”, he said which “took that young man’s grades up to B+/A-. That marked an entirely different type of reward for the decorator who normally created beautiful entertaining spaces.

What do you do every day to create an environment that is creative to your own work and the comfort level of others? Here are a few more examples that I have found recently.

When you speak to your doctor, do they stand or sit so as to meet you at your eye level? They should; it creates an entirely different environment for your conversation.

When you meet someone in their offices, do they bring the conversation to the small work table in their office or move their chair around their desk so as to sit next to you while speaking? That desk creates an informal barrier.

Whenever I am in the elevator of an office building, I always look out into the offices of each floor that the elevator makes a stop. Today I watched as three people got out on the same floor and each employee passing by the reception desk took a piece of the fresh fruit sitting in the bowl on the reception table. What a nice way to tell someone: Good Morning; Take good care of yourself!.

And least, we forget the lighting, the flowers, the candles and the music which so distinctly add dimension to our environment.

Location. Location. Environment. Environment. Both are key criteria to making you, your family and your business team comfortable.