Does age really matter if people are in the right role, doing what they love?
The statistics are in, and we now know that the 100-year life, once a distant Holy Grail, is on course to become the new norm. That half of those born today will live into their 100s is incredibly positive news – who wouldn’t want to live longer? In a world that has long adhered to a three-step life journey, made up of childhood, adulthood, and old age – a world where we’re hard-wired to expect retirement at 65 and where the spotlight tends to dim on the over-50s as they’re progressively ushered away from the corporate steering wheel – increasing longevity offers a chance to rethink and re-energise the whole second half of our life.
The fact is, far too many businesses are shackled by outdated timelines and methodologies that don’t cater to a multigenerational workplace. At a time when we’re expected to work deep into our 70s (and possibly beyond), that’s more than inconvenient. Profound changes are needed. We need to reframe how we view aging within corporations. Crucially, we need a shift in mindset that eradicates corporate ageism, particularly towards the over-50s, allowing us to create an infrastructure that encourages people to grow and develop on the job. The good news is that there are forward-thinking companies out there who already have a handle on this. They know how to navigate the shift, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still lots of work to do.
Avivah Wittenberg-Cox’s 4-Quarter Lives
At the end of September, the Global Peter Drucker Forum hosted a discussion entitled “Snowflakes and Seniors: A Manager’s Nightmare or Secret Weapon?” that shined a light on precisely these intergenerational puzzles. It looked at how we can not only redress the balance but also harness the power of experience that comes with age.
On the panel was thought leader Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, who regularly advises organizations on age balance. She talked about the new corporate landscape and outlined her Life’s 4 Quarters framework that takes a refreshingly inclusive view of our life stages in 2023 and beyond. Avivah also spoke on this topic when she was the featured speaker at our Executive Breakfast in partnership with Global Peter Drucker Forum on June 22 in London.
For Avivah, the extra years transform our life’s profile. Lives are now divided into quarters, not thirds. They are:
- Q1 Grow (0-24) – Q1 includes childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, a period during which we can grow up, learn, and explore without being burdened with too much responsibility.
- Q2 Achieve (25-49) – this is the key focus area for much of the current working world, perhaps to its, and our, detriment. There’s immediate pressure to prove yourself, and to tick numerous societal and professional boxes. As such, this is the quarter most likely to benefit from a more measured view of the course of life today.
- Q3 Becoming (50-74) – the new part of the jigsaw, and one that needs fresh focus and definition. Because the fact is, those extra years of lifespan aren’t just tag ends to the preceding achieving and subsequent harvesting quarters, but a separate stage of its own, reshaping how we approach our autumnal years as we continue to develop professionally and personally, with the benefit of by now having learned exactly who we are. Now that careers have morphed from being 30-year sprints into 50-year marathons, this is where the focus needs to be, dramatically altering our view of the over-50s workforce.
- Q4 Harvesting (75-100) – for too long a period marked by loneliness, when really it should be a time for reaping what you’ve sown in your life up to now, and for continuing to grow and learn.
The importance of investing long-term in talent
At Emergn, we recognize the value of a multigenerational workforce. We know that good leadership and management can unite different generations – not through creating competition, but by fostering collaboration and creating a positive work environment. Avivah talks about the rich experience that over-50s can draw on through having already dealt with various “lifequakes”, and how those real-life experiences can be invaluable to businesses – and how they can be shared with the wider (yes, younger) team.
Modern forward-thinking methodologies, such as Emergn’s Incredible Talent Journey, also focus on investing in people. We focus on creating a journey for each employee, covering how we grow together through 1) command of the business; 2) a smart work ethic; 3) consistent follow-up and follow-through; 4) philosophical alignment; and 5) identifying the right role.
We look at employee careers as a whole and set personalised goals each year so that each person can grow and develop within the company, with the security of long-term commitment. When employees are looked at individually and aligned to the work where they are best suited, retirement can be a discussion much further down the road.
To adapt to our extended lifespans, that needs to be reflected in how we structure our businesses. We need to provide for all stages of life – but crucially, we need to recognize that an intergenerational team can derive huge benefits in terms of motivation, reciprocal learning, and consolidating the value of diversity.
The importance of creating a work environment where people can dare to grow older can’t be understated. It’s time to act now.
Find out more about Emergn’s Incredible Talent Journey.
About the Authors:
Chief Financial and Operations Officer, Emergn Limited
Anj brings a deep motivation and desire to weave finance, HR and operational excellence throughout the organizations she’s been a part of through a style of servant leadership, empathy and trust.
In her role, Anj focuses on helping Emergn successfully execute its strategy, build better engagement across the business and a solid foundation for future growth.
For over 25 years, Anj has been a part of global leadership teams focused on improving the way businesses operate, integrate and transform.
Founder and CEO, 20-first
Avivah Wittenberg-Cox is a potent mix of writer, entrepreneur, change agent, coach and consultant. She is a global expert on all things gender and generational balance. She is currently spending a year at Harvard as a 2022 Advanced Leadership Fellow researching all things related to longevity, gender differences in ageing, and navigating later life transitions into the Third and Fourth Quarters. Graphically summarised in her latest book Thriving to 100 – Through Life’s 4 Quarters.
As the CEO of 20-first, she works with organisations interested in capturing the competitive advantages of the future of work, talent and demographic trends. Her ground-breaking thought leadership is accessible through several seminal books and regular contributions to Harvard Business Review and Forbes. She’s done several TEDx talks, was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for Gender Balanced Leadership by PWN Global, and was recently recognized as one of the world’s 40 Most Inspiring Women Over 40. Her book, Why Women Mean Business, was awarded the MANPOWER Best Book of the Year Prize.
In her own First and Second Quarters, she grew up in Toronto, attended the University of Toronto as a joint Computer Science/ Comparative Literature major, went to Paris for a year and stayed for 30, doing an MBA at INSEAD along the way. She has 3 passports (CDN, F, CH), lives in London with her sculptor/ magistrate husband and visits her two grown gender-balanced children, a son and daughter based in Dakar and New York.
On a more personal note, she is tracking her 60th year, back at school at Harvard, in a weekly newsletter called elderberries.