“Old” and “Young” Workers – A Perspective

Jonathan Brostrom

Principal Consultant, 1218 Global – EMEA

jonathan.brostrom@1218global.com

Your Age. Such a simple enough entry on an application. Date of Birth. Age. A number that comes pre-loaded with conceptions, preconceptions, stereotypes, legal implications, attitudes, and story lines. It is the same with your photograph or in-person appearance. Age. What an interesting and unavoidable truth.

“70! I can’t believe you’re 70!!! … Oh, now that I see you close up, I can tell you’re old.”

Sarah Silverman – Comedian & Actress

What is an ‘older’ worker?  Let’s use this guideline – anyone 10 years older than you are. And, what is a ‘younger’ worker? – anyone 10 years younger than you are.

(Is there an absolute age to mark a worker as ‘older’? Instead of trotting out a phrase like “50 is the new 40.”, let legal and company guidelines define the boundaries of age. Find and follow the regulatory guidelines of the country, state, province, city you live in.)

The baggage of thoughts about age in the workplace includes the depth of experience, the possibility of outdated knowledge, difficulties in team interaction, family-related relationship issues, and legal ramifications. How a company, a team, a group thinks about age, and how older and younger workers think about it is often left undiscussed. HR follows guidelines meant to inhibit discrimination, but the common wisdom is what?  It’s hard to get a job if you’re older. It’s hard to get a job if you’re inexperienced.

When an organization or project team chooses to define their age-related biases and opinions and chooses to openly define a way to react, to behave – the result is less friction, more cooperation, and a higher degree of respect across generations.

A simple exercise based on risk/reward management is useful to analyze and understand your personal attitudes about age in general, and or more usefully, the attitudes of your business’s culture:

The Process:

  • List your own attitudes or work as a group to define your business culture.
  • Evaluate your level of agreement/experience in your organization.
  • Determine your level of Agreement.
  • Make a mitigation plan.

RISK

PLAN

Older Workers

   Agree
1 – 5

Mitigation

Have outdated skills

Study – get certifications – keep up

Tell too many stories

  

Monitor the number, duration and relevance of anecdotes. Keep a count.

Are slow

Distinguish between thorough and dull. Keep track of achievements.

Hit on youth

  

Follow the same guidelines regardless of age.

Don’t like change

Get with the program. Value innovation. Assign change-related tasks

Are older than my parents

Check your responses – they’re not your parents

<list your baggage>

<make a plan>

Younger Workers

 Agree
1 – 5

Mitigation

Hurry through everything

Learn to be thorough. Remember to communicate.

Get distracted easily

Be aware of listening, focusing, keep a count of times you checked your phone.

Don’t listen

Be aware of eye contact, ability to repeat and/or rephrase what you’ve heard

Don’t have experience to draw on

Ask for explanation of context / history

<list your baggage>

<make a plan>

  • List rewards/benefits of age groups or work as a group to define your business culture
  • Evaluate your level of agreement/experience in your organization
  • Determine your level of Agreement
  • Make a mitigation plan

REWARD

Older Workers

   Agree
1 – 5

Mitigation

Have valuable insights from previous experience

Take advantage of what works – what doesn’t work and why. Take time to learn.

Have been young once

  

Remember youth is not exclusive to you

<list the values you identify>

<make a plan to use that value>

Younger Workers

 Agree
1 – 5

Mitigation

Work with the latest technologies

Measure, acquire and deploy their skills

Have a lot of stamina

Use it wisely – stamina has limits

Malleable – likely to accept change

Reward innovation – learn to adjust quickly and still provide structure

<list the values you identify>

<make a plan to use that value>

The Results:

If your average score on Risk is > 3 – you might have significant risk.  If your average score on Reward is < 3 – you are likely undervaluing both older and younger workers.

For every risk and every reward, try putting “I” in front of each statement. How do you fit into this matrix of baggage associated with your age?

  • Do I have valuable insights?  Do I know how to share them? Do I babble on and on?
  • Do I work the latest technologies? Can I contribute and share?

The dropdown/picklist of birth years is really very long. Taking the time to understand and appreciate the range of skills and experiences that are available on your team or within your organization across all age groups leads to more effective resource utilization and superior business results.

About Jonathan Brostrom

Mr. Brostrom’s extensive consulting and management expertise includes strategic planning, business analysis, project management and hands-on implementation with experience ranging from development of industry-specific applications to managing global systems implementations. He has deep functional knowledge of multiple industries and the platforms on which their business runs through experience consulting to a diverse group of Staffing, Commercial, and Not-for-Profit firms. He is a talented technologist, an excellent communicator, and a charismatic leader.
Specialties: Project Management, Strategic Business Analysis, Salesforce platform apps, PeopleSoft Financials (ESA), Public Speaking, Communication, Content Development, Web Design.

About 1218 Global

A worldwide leader in consulting innovation, 1218 Global and its family of professional consulting companies (Regents Consulting Group, Convectus Solutions, Axcero Global, and 1218 Global HR Solutions) were each founded with unique delivery capabilities. From systems implementations and upgrades to Managed Services (EMEA, APAC and USA), 1218 Global has developed a track record for measurably improving client productivity, effectiveness, and profitability.

Learn more at: www.1218global.com