I ran across this study and its presumption that older workers and younger workers will clash is amusing. It’s humorous and a bit sad because a large part of Generation Z assumes that they will be able to self-actualize rather than focus on getting the job done.
I think the article holds some truth since Generation-X types like myself tend to place self-actualization much lower down on the scale of needs. Why? Because many of us, due to demographics, have been behind the 8-ball for much of our working careers. We know that in the end employers value one’s ability to deliver. If one is able to enjoy higher meaning while doing so, is a bonus. It’s not something an employ is in a position to expect.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I love young people with exceptional technology skills, but I am curious how they would define “fresh thinking”. Is this the perpetual “my generation knows better than the old farts” which has existed since the dawn of time or is there truly a fresh way to think? I have worked with lots of young people and while they bring energy they aren’t that much different than my generation. They are less cynical and less guarded, but generally, as expected, inexperienced regarding life, business, and work.
I liked the idea of being open to new ways of working. Technology created the opportunity for flexibility, but it also is temping to think that technology can allow us to transcend evolutionary biology. We are generally hard wired to want to work in each other’s presence. While remote work or exotic work environments are interesting, our biology compels us to return eventually to face meetings and group interaction.
Lastly, I must end with a comment on the word “clash”. Conflict is unavoidable within any human endeavor, however how power is exercised varies depends on a lot of factors. Firstly, whether one has power to engage in a clash. Secondly, whether one has the ability to leverage power to motivate others to accept your fresh thinking and new ways of working. Thirdly, whether one has the ability to counter the push back, avoidance or the ignoring of the new thinking and ideas.
What I am getting at is that the study comes across with a huge assumption of entitlement to exercise one’s perspective within groups with a variety of generational perspectives. I suspect a clash will occur since Generation-X is one of the most anti-entitlement generations since the 1920’s. I am gracious with young people who believe in entitlement, but I find it naively cute.
I googled “entitlement thinking” and ran across this Generation-Z kid who talked about “Deserving VS Entitlement”. He’s a level headed kid with level headed expectations. I think he’d have good ideas, but also some humility. when approaching work and being in a team. I underlined humility since that is critical to being able to be in a team, lead a team, or exercise one’s fresh ideas and new ways of working. Demands for entitlement are often met with laughter in the workplace. The laughter is usually deserved!
Nothing tops attitude! Demographics also make it increasingly more difficult to find those 20-somethings, and even rarer the 20-something who can top the experience, loyalty and attitude of the older worker.
If businesses want to survive, they have to stop the trend of hiring only endangered 20-somethings and start seeking out older workers to fill empty positions. Hiring workers in their golden years means making some changes for an aging workforce but don’t let the gray hair fool you; today’s older workers are often physically fit and able to handle challenges in the workplace with minimum accommodations. Source: 7 Ways Businesses Can Surf the Silver Tsunami and Survive | Janice Celeste
Janice Celeste posts a list of pros and cons:
Older employees have invaluable work experience and work ethic.
They are usually able and willing to mentor younger, less experienced employees.
They can take on part time or seasonal work. In fact, some prefer it.
They are reliable and punctual.
Older employees have a serious commitment to work, and they are loyal.
Many times, they already have established long-term networks of clients and contacts.
I would affirm all of these, but expand on a couple more.
Older workers often come in a little early to ensure they are ready for work, and are willing to leave a little late if the business needs this.
Older workers tend to have much better safety records.
Older workers understand that cutting corners are like taking short-cuts. You often pay in the long run.
Older workers have been around long enough to understand that the success of the business means they get a paycheque.
Older employees might be set in their ways and sometimes are not as adept at new technology as their younger counterparts.
They may need additional training and they may lack flexibility.
They might be old enough to have one or more chronic diseases, which makes them more expensive when it comes to medical care and insurance.
They prefer flexible hours.
These cons, identified by Janice Celeste are accurate, however businesses can “weed out” the Luddites by examining their track records. Some 60+ types know more about new technology and how businesses adapt than the average 20 year old. It will show on their resume.
Yes, some older workers may need training, but since older workers tend to be much more loyal so they often will stick around. You may hire a 20-something only to discover once they have experience that they move to something they consider “more exciting”. Older workers are less likely to “train and bolt”.
Yes, older workers get sick more or have more chronic diseases. Yet if businesses do the math and offset the costs of attrition due to younger workers leaving, this concern can be mitigated. Of course, today’s 60 year old is not the 60 year old of our parents generation.
Yes, older workers often prefer flexible hours. In fact, our whole culture is shifting towards desiring flexible hours, however people with higher levels of loyalty to their company and/or team will choose that flexibility while considering the needs of others. That has been my experience. Someone might want a four day week for the summer, but if there is a business crunch this same person will volunteer for over time.
Of course, you can interview with these cons in mind. Is the interviewee a grumpy old fart who looks like the smoking man from X-files? Or are they a seasoned worker with skills that would choke an elephant?
Eliminate the obvious con candidates and look for the Old Star Geeks! They are out there … waiting to perform their Awesomeness.
This is not a one-off finding. Other studies have shown that entrepreneurs best years are from 45 to 65. Even many Wiz-kid Start-ups have a number of key gray-beards who behind the scene’s guide the company to greatness.
A good story requires tension and conflict, so its not surprising that there are reports of generational conflict. Boomers VS Gen-X were huge in my younger days, but people adapted. Today the stories are Gen-X, Gen-Y, and Gen-Z conflict. We are fed stories that intergenerational conflict is inevitable so its no surprise polls show people expect it.
The good news is that the majority of workers in the UK and Ireland (89%) surveyed from all generations believe that having a workforce of different ages is an asset to a company. However, the survey unearthed a key challenge that managers must overcome. Nearly two thirds (63%) of older employees expect workplace tensions to increase with the arrival of Generation Z into their companies. – Source: Older workers expect office tensions with Generation Z, survey reveals | Information Age
The story is about people expecting tensions, but for the Irish and the UK, the polls show people understand that we now have a multigenerational workforce.
Yes, there are differences in generational cultures which at time can cause conflict. Just as when there are cultural differences it can cause conflict. These differences when developed in a positive manner lead to a dynamic creative culture. Experience meets an expanded viewpoint which leads to new possibilities.
As my mom said, “Where everyone thinks the same, no one thinks at all.” The quote is from Walter Lippman, journalist and thinker of a previous generation.
PS. We old farts know why they smell the paper in the video above. LOL
My blog has strayed a bit into politics in the past few posts, however I got an email from a reader which said something like, “I don’t give a $h!t about whether Trump is scum, crazy, or whatever … at least he’s against the H-1B which could cost me my job.” Its understandable that someone might feel threatened when they read others in their industry are being replaced by cheaper younger foreign workers. In some cases, they are forced to retrain the new worker who will sit in their chair. I think they believe a number of social contracts have been violated.
We often do not think about social contracts since many are unwritten. The old are expected to sacrifice/contribute for the next generation and the young are expected to care for them when they get old. If you work hard, its expected that society will reward in some manner your commitment. A nation, which can call on its citizens to defend it with their lives (even involuntarily as in the draft), will look after its own first.
When social contracts are abandoned people feel abandoned. Those who faithfully fulfilled these unwritten commitments feel betrayed and confused. When people feel abandoned, betrayed and confused, the next natural feelings are anger/rage. In the post WWI period, war reparations were used to punish Germany for that war. The reparations were designed to cripple and humiliate Germany which many historians site as critical in the rise of Hitler. Few know that Germany only finished paying off the WWI reparations in 2010!
Now, I’m not saying Trump is Hitler. I thought initially he was hoaxing American society by running for President, but now I see that he’s just some egotistical fame seeker with loads of money. He’s a buffoonish spotlight seeker with bad hair … but why are people backing him? My view of history is that when people are existentially threatened (facing the street) they act badly. Very badly. Even violent badly. Let me clarify. Why do middle class or formerly middle class act very badly. Often the lower classes have are so beaten down and/or entrenched in a sense learned helplessness that they can generally initiate widespread movements. People who have had power and lose it can be dangerous. Especially if they feel that unwritten social contracts have been betrayed or perceived to have been betrayed. Really dangerous if they can call upon the underclasses to rally with them.
It is understandable that Machiavellian-orientated tech companies have no sense of social contract, respect for citizenship, or even respect for the inherent dignity of their workers. As it appears with Amazon, its all about the mission and workers are just fuel for building their cultish vision of Amazon-world. What is not understandable is that politicians are letting them do it. What is even more understandable is that politicians, especially the Democrats do not understand the consequences of their failure to protect citizens from obvious undermining of the social contract between state and citizen. Championing poor migrant workers might trump (pun intended) protecting a nation’s citizenship rights, but there is no just case for championing young highly educated immigrants at the expense of older, committed, skilled IT workers. Unless of course, you don’t care in the least for social contracts.
I roadtrip a lot and in an Oregon campground a police officer and his wife shared our campfire one evening. She explained with some embarrassment the Tea Party stickers on her RV. “We don’t believe everything they say, but they stand up for us.” There was no racism and they weren’t buck toothed hill-billies, but clearly people who felt that their lives were threatened and were turning to movements which promised the protect them. About 1/3 of Tea Party supporters sometimes vote Democrat. Look at the statistics for membership in this movement and you’ll see who feels threatened. Yes, there is the caricatured old white Republican segment, but the data also shows 41% female and a that Tea Partiers are generally have more education than the general population. They also are not doing well given the recession. The main segment, driving the movement is older professionals who feel threatened economically and do not think the current leadership of the Democrats and Republicans are looking out for them. I’m not saying they are right or wrong, but rather pointing out there is a large segment of alienated middle class people and that I think that is a dangerous for our common future. I think most of this alienation has been dismissed by the mainstream parts of the political class of America. Over coffee I’ve heard friends say, “Oh they are just a bunch of idiots who will eventually go away”. The data says otherwise and history says otherwise. An alienated middle class is an unpredictable animal.
In my reading of the human condition, I believe that modern social contracts within a democratic framework can easily give way to oaths of feality within non-democratic frameworks when people feel significantly existentially threatened. When society is bereft of the stability that commonly shared social contracts give or appear to give, many will look for the powerful for protection. Much has been written on the threat of fascism on the rise in Europe.
I don’t think Donald Trump is the great leader for whom people will cast their loyalty to for protection. He’s popular because he’s voicing the angst which the middle class and especially older professionals are experiencing. I would not be surprised if loads of former democrats are supporting him. They are not supporting the Republican Party or Neo-Conservatism or even right wing economics, but Trump. I imagine someone thinking, “He’s a prick but he’s saying stuff that I can’t say and he’s someone standing up for me and mine.”
I see Trump as a bellweather of dangerous times ahead if America does not wake up to an alienated middle class and the abandonment of various social contracts which have helped stabilize their society. You can not expect people to respect societal authorities for long if they have no reason to benefit from doing so.
This is my second politic post in a month. I don’t intend this blog to be a political one, but given the Amazon Acting Like A Cult story in the news, I’ve been thinking about the big picture that Geezer Geeks live within these days. Instead of continuing to lament the bastards at Amazon and other of their ilk, I want to instead highlight those who hire older IT workers.
I think it is more fruitful individually for older IT workers to steer clear of ageist tech companies and focus on those who “get it”. Let’s look for places which see us as the treasure we are! Dear readers, let me know about companies which value older IT workers and I will highlight them.
I found this awesome study on what skills are needed for the 2020. The trouble is its daunting, since to acquire these skills requires personal development with breadth, depth, and wisdom. My position is that the most important knowledge in most fields is acquired intergenerationally not, as technocrats would have us believe, in an individualistic segmented and easily conveyed manner. Here is the link to the study.
Here is the “Coles Notes” Verson:
1. Sense-making: ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed
2. Social intelligence: ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions
3. Novel & adaptive thinking: proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based
4. Cross-cultural compe t e ncy Definition: ability to operate in different cultural settings
5. Computational thinking: ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning
6. New-media literacy: ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication
7. Transdisciplinarity: literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines
8. Design mindset: ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes
9. Cognitive load management: ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques
10. Virtual collaboration: ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team.
Companies are often remiss in assessing the performance of younger workers as compared to older workers. I’ve told the story a number of times, how one company was going to let “the old fat guy with a beard” (not me ) go because he always left at 5:00PM while other younger workers showed greater commitment by working late and on weekends. When they checked the output of the “Old Fart”, they found he resolved three times more support calls than most of the “Young Hot Shots”. He was the top support analyst … a rock star.
This is born out by this study which attributes older worker resilience to learning information flow and discerning what is unnecessary information. In my experience this is true, however they missing two important strengths of older workers.
1. Dealing with Distress
Where two or three gather you will have conflict. Older workers often are superior communicators. This is born out in the study which shows that Boomers are more likely to choose face to face communication. When I consulting for software development company, there was a client-wide software glitch caused by some hastily pushed out code. Even though 75% of the clients were unlikely to have noticed it, I counselled the CEO to immediately phone all the clients personally. Why? Respect. Hiding a screw-up is 10 times as bad as admitting one because it betrays trust. Most clients appreciate knowing the truth. since it means you are leading a company which is committed to the truth.
Why do younger workers often avoid conflict? It has been my observation that younger workers tend to choose to avoid the lesser current distress in the hopes of avoiding a bigger future distress. Older workers have learned that distress is part of life and something that is better faced head on. “You just take your lumps”.
2. If you think you are communicating enough, you aren’t.
Communication is difficult work. The old know this truth as do a few rare younger workers. Miscommunication is endemic to the human condition and if one is not intentional about communicating to clients, coworkers, and management, unnecessary troubles are sure to ensue. Watch how often older workers tend to be proactive communicators. Watch how often younger workers tend to be reactive communicators.
3. Don’t Squander the Gaps
Older workers use slow downs to catch up or for proactive improvements to their work flows. This is one of the reasons they are efficient. When I was young, there were periods I thought, “There is nothing to do for a few hours.” Of course, there is always something to do, even if it is to reorganize your files, run some diagnostic software. Or as #2 teaches … connect with people.
Please let me know what in your experience have been the benefits that older workers have developed through experience?
Now please enjoy one of Canada’s great old farts … Bruce Cockburn … singing about a dream which overcame his fear of a Soviet/West Nuclear War …
Our society often confuses knowledge with experience. It’s something I run into continually with the way organizations think and plan for the future. For example, when talking with folks in Start-Ups, they will tell of the young guy who has all sorts of certifications, but is just not able to produce. I reply, “Of course he can’t apply, most of his experience is about acquiring knowledge, not putting it to use.”
Experience is understanding how to put knowledge to use to create value. Business is about leveraging people’s skills to create value in order to make profit. Those who’ve been around long enough know that at the core of any business (even public service) is the delivery of value for money. In the end its about turning knowledge/skill into product/service.
From experience we need to transfer into the concept of wisdom. Wisdom is the right application of knowledge and therefore is related to experience. It is true, that while an older worker may have experience, there is no guarantee that it has translated into wisdom. However, for most older workers, especially in the knowledge industry, it has. With time, even a dim bulb can shine enough light on a problem to get better at it. For bright bulbs, this is even more true. Check out the past winners of Nobel Prizes in science. You’ll see most are over 40 and some are really old people. These are minds which have delivered the best and its because they have knowledge, experience, and wisdom. These are the kinds of faces which deliver the most value for an organization.
All things considered, the human mind it at its peak performance when it exceeds 40+ years.
I ran into this story since it talks about the labour shortage in the trades. The penny dropped on a trend that I’ve seen over the past decade. I can count on both hands the number of people whom I’ve heard of dropping out of IT work in their 30’s and going into the trades. Some are making the shift in their 40’s.
It’s been well known for a long time that people often leave coding for various reasons but I suspect many are kind of dropping out. Not to imply that the trades are a step down. Far from it. What I mean is that they are effectively saying “to hell with IT” and moving into something totally different. Something concrete. Something that does not involve technology. Something where you can be old and accepted.
Anyone else see this trend? Within the IT industry, I have previously warned that our industry does not consider retention of its most experienced and skilled persons. When shortages come, our industry tends to think of getting more new young people, rather than retention. That is an expensive mistake since the acquired skills of tens of thousands of IT workers leaving the industry must be in the hundreds of millions in lost opportunity costs.
I applaud people courageous enough to make a significant career changes as moving to the trades, but I wonder why its happening.
I run into articles like this one often. “The struggle today to embrace older workers is a continuation of that journey.” The journey is towards inclusion and diversity, which I’m fine with, however often older workers are seen as pity-cases, rather than the sagely-uber-experienced worker which generally is closer to the truth.
Society is changing, and if young IT workers are uncomfortable with the 40 year old who’s got 20 years under his belt, I can’t imagine what they will think of working with ol’ grandpa-Jimbo when I’m 70 and still coding. I like coding and I love the joy I create when client experience systems with good UX which and don’t break. As long as the neurons are still firing, I’ll be creating “beautiful” as will many other Gen-X Geezer Geeks … and some Boomers who may code into their 80’s.
Aside from the annoying, pity-the-old-farts-so-include-them tone of the article, it highlight that companies are starting to get the mentoring issue. Geezer Geeks and other older professionals are the bearers of knowledge which can not be written down, codified (pun intended), or acquired quickly. Wisdom is knowledge put into action and that can only come with time. To make a real Samurai sword take 20 years of working with a master before you can attempt it. Coding may not take 20 years to master (although some of you might indeed make that argument), but its not something you do really well after a few years of college and a couple years being in the trenches. It takes a decade to make a solid coder … and then you continue learning … and reapplying wisdom/skill/experience … to evolving technology.
Coding is a way of life. A weird one. And a wonderful one. As I often say, “its about making beautiful”. Good code is beautiful.
Tell me dear HR types who are hiring kids out of college … when have you heard them talk about the beauty of code and the joy of mastery (ooops … Uber-Grocking … .
And now a clip from the 1983 movie “Wargames” … 1983 was about the year I first used the Internet. Long before the WWW was implemented by Tim Berners-Lee. The Cold War was still a reality, and personal computers had only been on the market for a few years. I’m glad Seattle didn’t get nuked … watch the clip and you’ll get it.