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Sunday, 17 March 2019

What Do You Mean, Too Old? Everyone Can And Should Contribute!

I am slightly reluctant to return to the subject of ageism as it may be thought that I have a hidden agenda (which I have).

Sadly old age and infirmity are reducing my physical mobility but happily I still have my marbles, or at least some of them.

I had a wonderful colleague in the USA, Pat Hyndman, who died a couple of years ago at the age of 95 , and was still chairing two Vistage CEO groups.

Pat's approach to retirement was that he intended to go on until "they had to carry him out on the flip chart" and if only metaphorically that is what he achieved.

However in conversation with several of my Vistage CEO members of late I have been looking at the subject on a less personal and emotive basis.

There is no doubt that here in the UK we are in a period of fuller employment.  During the past period of recession, austerity measures led to a reduction in skills training and we are reaping the consequences now.

My friends in the recruitment industry tell me that certain sectors have become candidate led simply because of the shortage of good, trained people looking to move.

Indeed in one case the member told me that they had offered positions to three potential candidates all of whom had gone elsewhere.

The eye watering salaries  being offered are way above the current market range even though the member's company has an enviable reputation as an exceptional  employer.

The whole market is going through  a cyclical change right now and I suspect that it will get even  harder rather than easier to find, recruit and retain great people.

What, then, can be done about this problem?

There is a whole range of variables that impact on the situation that I would suggest is one of the most serious facing business leaders at this moment whatever happens in the Brexit negotiations.

For example, the change in legislation stopping companies imposing mandatory retirement to employees has led to the occasional blockage in available career paths.

Medical advances are also leading to longer life (about which I am not complaining) that implies a bank of knowledge and skills is growing and still in employment.

The current shortage of candidates means that there is a further issue stemming from the dramatic changes in business technology.

The younger people take these changes for granted and embrace them automatically while those at the more elderly end of the workforce find absorption of these changes more difficult.

There is no doubt that many people who are passing or have already passed the notional retirement age can expect two or three decades more and I have always said that much of that skill bank is neither realised or exploited.

There is a natural reluctance on the part of employers to bring older people into the workforce but here and there it may be at least a part solution to the problem.

While I am a great believer in the more mature citizens keeping working and contributing (should they so desire) I would accept that there will be many whose skills can easily be supplied by someone younger or by advances in technology.

Manual workers for example will find continued work becomes inhibited by the natural ageing process with the consequent reduction in strength and mobility.

However with the growth in the apprenticeship schemes why not employ these older people to pass on their skills to the young generation?  For example, some of my Vistage CEO group members have exploited the situation by forming training academies to develop their own people rather than recruiting.

For the more mature who have come through a professional career path, there is no reason why they should not keep themselves available to help out on a part-time or interim basis.

Alternatively a portfolio of activities can bring intellectual rigour with a measure of freedom of the diary.

Finally remember that as we age, it's the knees that go first closely followed by parallel parking.


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