We all know the stats: Millennials will comprise more than 50% of the workforce as early as 2020. But there’s another milestone we’ll be passing that same year that bears just as much discussion – the rise of an ageing workforce.
By 2020, people aged 60 and older are going to outnumber children younger than five. This rapidly ageing population is set to be one of the most significant shifts of our lifetime, as massive numbers of people age out of the workforce.
Much of the discussion about the rapidly growing elderly population is how to deliver goods and services that speak to their needs, from using automation to help people as they become less mobile, to coaching companies focused specifically on late-in-life issues such as investment, insurance and more.
But there’s another aspect to it that I don’t feel gets covered enough, and that’s how elderly populations can continue to contribute to society in a meaningful way. Let’s be honest, you don’t immediately become an empty husk of the person you once were by the time you turn 60 and get presented with that golden watch, and it’s frankly condescending to pretend otherwise.
And this topic is even more pressing when you consider that older people are the ones most likely to be affected by the rise of automation, forced into early retirement and retrenchment because they lack the digital skills that younger generations have grown up with.
So how do we ensure that we’re not needlessly putting a whole generation out to pasture because they’ve hit some meaningless number?
A wealth of experience
An older colleague of mine recently “retired” after more than 30-plus years working here. Did he settle into a quiet solitude, fly-fishing somewhere in Mpumalanga? Nope. He’s still out there, putting the decades of skills he’s learnt at Accenture to good use.
Warren Buffett is nearing 90. Yet he continues to have a amazing business sense, investing in some of the biggest and most disruptive businesses out there. Jack Welch is 80, yet nobody in their right mind would turn down business or leadership advice from the man. Business sense is business sense, and it’s not something that’s dulled by age.
The ability to harness an ageing population’s strengths is especially relevant to us here at home. Africa is home to the world’s youngest population, more than 200 million people aged between 15 and 24. Yet, as a whole, this prospective powerhouse of young workers, lacks skills. Empowering the older population offers a means to plug those knowledge gaps, to pass on those intangible strengths that can only be acquired through experience.
What can business do?
Forget about stuff like caregiver robots and health related wearables for a moment, and let’s consider how digital can empower older people to pass on their proficiencies. One of the biggest factors I believe will make an impact is that of lifelong learning. Digital tools like online education platforms, virtual classrooms and self-instruction apps can give older people the digital skills that quite simply didn’t exist when they were younger. And if it’s driven by organisations themselves in order to keep their workforce agile and up-to-date, all the better.
The other big factor is going to be the changing way we approach work and freelancing. Liquid workforces won’t just be good for younger talent who want to be able to define their own work experiences, but older professionals who have high-level skills and specialisations.
Imagine being able to tap into the mind of the man who built the world’s most digital bank? That’s an incredible strategic advantage. Older workers could start renting out their skills on-demand, using a kind of experience-as-a-platform model to stay relevant.
Age ain’t nothing but a number
Digital opens up new opportunities for older folk to continue to make the most of the resources, connections and wealth of knowledge they have amassed over the course of their lives. But to make the most of these opportunities, we as a society need to rethink how we approach age and ageing. Whether it’s upping the retirement age or finding new user-centric ways for older employees to keep building their capabilities, the drive to include them lies with business.
What do you think? Are we prioritising millennials at the expense of older employees? And how do you think South African businesses can better accommodate employees of all ages.
Originally posted on Linked IN by: Lee Naik
Contact John Assunto for all of your Education Recruiting needs! Johna@worldbridgepartners.com or 860-387-0503
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