Of the millennial generation much has been written and is still written about daily: reports with detailed data, strategies for attracting them, recommendations on how to manage them, initiatives for retaining them... That said, much has already been debated and done for this generation.
What has caused this – let’s call it – furore?
It's simple. The characteristics of the millennial generation make it exciting. Its presence in the professional market has been overwhelming. Their entry into the working world has broadly meant two things:
- A reformulation of the way work is conceived
- A drastic change in the way organizational culture is managed
Until a few years ago, it was said that the millennial generation would be the future of companies. Today that statement has fallen short. Millennials are a crucial part of the present. In the years to come, this age group’s participation will be accentuated in all areas of society. By 2025, millennials will account for about 50% of the global workforce.
While this article may seem to be yet another one about the millennial generation, it won’t. No. This time the spotlight will be on a generation that seems to be antipodal to it: senior talent. By "senior talent", I am referring to professionals who are to date, 40 years old and older.
This is the great challenge for the People Management field!
One of the main challenges we have been facing in the People Management field is to be able to harmonize the coexistence of multiple generations in the same environment. Currently there are organizations that have four generations in their workforce who have embarked on shared projects, and in next to no time that might even become five. Yes... five!
Focusing efforts on attracting and developing a single generation would be a serious mistake that could severely penalize us. It is thus necessary to build a strategic vision into our business actions that, besides caring for and promoting inter-generational coexistence, encompasses conditions for meeting the global needs and expectations of everybody as well as for each of these age groups, including seniors obviously.
Facing the truth: do we admit our blunder?
What happens when a senior talent is available in the job market and wants to re-enter it? The reality is that the market often closes its doors drastically and at other times it doesn’t open them enough to allow firm, outright accession. Enabling accession to senior talent would allow them to bring their potential value to an organization.
Various reports show that generally as professionals age, they become less employable. Adecco Group (2017) reveals, that of the job offers mentioning age within their requirements, less than 10% include professionals over 40 years of age. For those over 45, the figure drops to less than 5%.
For some time now, the tendency has been to specify less and less the age factor in job advertisements, however, it doesn’t mean that internally the decision-making teams on the contractors’ side stop weighing up that variable and for this analysis to turn out unfavourably for the senior candidate.
A trend that seems to light up the way ahead
Some time ago, many organizations became aware of the richness of diversity, and I say this not only from a social perspective, but from a purely business angle. Let me clarify. The features and the outcomes for the products or services that an organization generates can be enriched greatly if diverse people participate within the planning, conception, development and even during the testing stage of these products and services. These are people who are diverse in their cultural backgrounds, in their sexuality, in their socioeconomic status, in their ages, etc. All this enriches the final outcome. This allows for adaptation to the increasingly specific and ever more demanding needs of customers.
If the last point sounds so sensible, why isn't it firmly enshrined in practice?
My answer may seem at first glance simplistic, but I assure you that it comes against a rather complex backdrop: prejudice and fear.
Human beings are riddled with these. We love to label. Labelling makes us calm; it allows us to believe that we have control over clearly unpredictable scenarios. Change, whatever is different, what we don't know—that creates fear. What’s just as common as it’s crippling, is the question, "What if...?” This question often hides uncertainty and a level of fear that prevents us from seeing a world of favourable possibilities which logically exist as well.
In organizations we need to constantly rethink what kind of talent we need for our corporate goals. But we need to do it with a clear and broad vision, striving to free ourselves from biases and self-imposed barriers that inhibit us from appreciating the qualities a senior professional could bring to a team.
Are you still wondering what attributes could a senior professional specifically bring to an organization?
Here are some of them:
- Professional maturity with regards to the knowledge on the business and the processes
- Personal and family stability
- Level of commitment and loyalty to the company
- Network of contacts
I was talking a moment ago about the tendency that we have to label, and I don't want to slip into a contradiction myself. It is not that every senior professional has the attributes indicated. If anything, this may perhaps be about common tendencies or traits that are sure to have individual nuances and differences which ought to be analysed in each particular case.
A senior professional has a lot to offer an organization, in global terms he or she usually has technical know-how, managerial expertise, an ability to anticipate, a global vision and extensive networking skills—all of that is the senior’s potential capacity. Companies and professionals need to work consistently believing this. We need to:
- Constantly and firmly question our own paradigms
- On that basis, generate real spaces and policies that enable onboarding and harnessing this "consolidated talent" in support of the organization’s objectives (this might be the company’s commitment) and continue to bring value as a professional by constantly updating, renewing and reinventing (this would be the professional’s commitment).