Article by Ceri Wheeldon
How often are assumptions made and employees categorised by their date of birth?
How different are the generations and are too many generalisations made?
There is a perception that older works are reluctant to embrace change, slow to learn, and under-perform on the negative side, but on the positive side are viewed as reliable and loyal .
Older workers have, (and continue to) embraced enormous change in their careers to date. I know based on my own personal experience how much change there has been in the workplace since I started – many years ago!
My only tools were a telephone (a landline) and a desktop adding machine. Everything was filed manually in physical paper files. Then came telecopiers. There was great excitement when a computer system was installed (it probably did less than our smartphones do today) . The business day revolved around getting correspondence into the 4pm post. Fax machines became provided us with an immediate way of sending information. We progressed to PCs and emails, mobile phones, smart phones, apps, social media, skype and zoom calls, AI. The older generation have embraced more in our careers than the younger generation. There is no reason to assume that we will not continue to embrace change- and thrive through the process.
Older workers have incredible potential in the workplace
Far from under-performing and not being open to continued learning, Harvard research suggests the opposite. In fact their research suggests that it is not until the age of 50 that brainpower peaks, with language, arithmetic, general knowledge and an understanding of how the world works all coming together….a great basis for continued learning and development and a great source of potential for employers.
Although roles with a greater physical requirement may need to be redesigned to recognise physical changes – but non physical roles can benefit from the experience, creativity and maturity an older worker can bring.
The culture of an organisation can impact how an older worker perceives themselves. If the generalisation is that older works fit the slow to learn, slow to change, slow to perform stereotype then perhaps this is how individuals will start to see themselves. In a culture where strengths are appreciated and valued older workers can thrive.
In reality there are as many variations within older age groups as there across younger generations.
The older generation is as diverse as the younger generations with individual strengths and weaknesses. For many ambition does not diminish with age- for some it increases once the day to day responsibility of raising a family is behind them and they can focus on their own aspirations.
The demographic of our population and workforce has changed and will continue to change. Attitudes and mindset have not yet caught up. Should older workers – or any worker for that matter be defined by their date of birth?