Ever feel like company policy obliges you to employ the services of ‘old people’, but you don’t quite see their usefulness in today’s business world? Perhaps you’ve written them off in your head.
We all know that times have changed, and older members of your team might have been a bit resistant to new technology and different ways of doing things. And you might be hoping: “Oh well, they’ll retire soon”. But maybe they won’t want to, or can’t afford to. Maybe you’re just unaware of what’s possible when Millennial know-how and Baby Boomer experience fuse together.
Let me explain where this is coming from. Marketing used to be my world. Admittedly I’d been out of it for a number of years, but on my return, understanding conversations and presentations was like trying to tune in to a foreign language. I seriously doubted whether I could hack it in the corporate world today. I thought that I’d left it too long, the gap is now too wide.
Then something struck me. Although the names of actual online products and services might be new to me; the beliefs & processes are generally the same ones that I had 20+ years ago as a Sales & Marketing Director. All that’s evolved really is the method of delivery – online versus offline. It’s still about people; about selling the benefits; about brand. Buzzwords have evolved – we now have ‘niche markets’ rather than vertical markets; sales ‘funnels’ rather than sales processes and so on … core competencies, re-engineering… just new words to describe familiar concepts.
Before computers, it was the norm for senior management to be of a more mature age. They’d worked themselves up through the ranks; bringing experience with regard to people skills as well as industry expertise. Today, in the technological era, 30 is that new 50.
Did you know that there are now actually 5 generations of people in the workplace? Aged from 16 to 70+ years. “Today, Baby Boomers, many of whom have delayed their retirement, often find themselves working for people young enough to be their grandchildren. A survey by Harris Interactive® on behalf of CareerBuilder.com finds that 69% of workers 55 and older report to younger bosses.” https://www.amanet.org/training/articles/younger-boss-older-worker.aspx
Oldies like me don’t NEED to learn new technologies to be of value in the workplace – of course it helps, and we should embrace the changes in the ways of the corporate world.
However, our existing skills & knowledge can still be recognised and used to everyone’s advantage. Listening to friends my age, I know this doesn’t always happen, resulting in discontentment all round. But when they do feel included and of value, magic happens – resulting in a happy and thriving workplace.
So here’s where I think we can complement each other.
Marketing is obviously about brand awareness and sales; and one thing that hasn’t changed, is that people buy people. No matter how effective your company’s automated strategies – there will be occasions when your system breaks, or can’t be understood. When your clients need a human to talk to. Remember that in our day, nothing was automated – all communication was by personalised letter, ‘phone conversation or face-to-face. So who better to train your customer-facing staff than those who are experienced in dealing with people?
As I hinted at above, oldies also know from experience that inspired staff can be a company’s greatest asset. Whether they’re young or old, people are much more motivated when they feel appreciated. With mindfulness and human rights policies in place, you might think that most businesses have that aspect covered. And in principle, they do.
However, with the best will in the world – there’s no way that young senior executives have had time to develop enough emotional intelligence to manage their own success and inspire a workforce effectively. True, that’s what training is for, but nothing beats experience. We know this, and mentor-ship from older colleagues might be just what’s needed to take your team and ultimately your business, from where it is now to where it wants to be.
Of course there’s been one development that no-one has lived through before. One that seems capable of causing as much trauma as it does pleasure. And that is the critical glare of social media. (At least we made our mistakes in relative privacy).
As you’ll be aware, whether your business has a social media presence or not, haters are more than happy to report your failings on yours, their own or someone else’s pages. Having to manage what is in effect your ‘complaints’ department in public, is not a pleasant situation to be in. How you react on behalf of the company is often dependent on wisdom – which grows in relation to the amount of time lived on this earth. (I know, I know, there are exceptions to the rule!) Another great opportunity to get advice from the oldies on your team.
In Youth We Learn, In Age We Understand – Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach
If your company employs across the generation gap, don’t miss this trick of squeezing the best from both worlds. With a bit of thought, the combo of fresh eyes and a wise mind can create a winning team – your winning team.