Leveraging Multigenerational Leadership – Navigating the Graying Demographic in the Workplace and Marketplace

This blog is a companion to the interview with Karen Sands on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on October 24, 2017 Navigating the Graying Demographic: Rock Your Age and Manage Inter-generationally. It was co-written by Karen Sands and Maureen Metcalf. It is the companion to the Voice America Interview with Karen Sands.

According to Steve Vernon in MoneyWatch June 2016, “The bottom line is that we’re living much longer than prior generations, but we can’t afford to keep adding years at the end of our lives when we’re fully retired and no longer working. Therefore, it only makes sense to work longer, but we’ll want to take steps to make these additional working years enjoyable and productive.”
Whether you are excited about the prospect of working until you are into your 80’s or 90’s or terrified, as leaders we all need to think about how the longevity economy will impact our workforce and our customers. As people live longer and work longer, their work habits and buying habits will change.

The intersection of people living and working longer, combined with the rapid acceleration of changes in how organizations conduct work, will lead us to a new Triple Bottom Line—people, planet, profits. s. But, only if organizations can overcome the immense challenges coming our way in the Longevity Economy- – representing an increase of the sum of economic activity of services and goods serving the 50+ demographic from $7.1 Trillion today to over $13.5 Trillion by 2032. Businesses that choose to leverage the largest pool of multigenerational skilled and knowledge workers to engage and capture the new ageless consumers as clients will beat the competition hands down. This big shift will foster creative processes to leverage the business acumen and skills of seasoned workers, along with the adaptability and tech finesse of younger workers will create a strategic advantage.

This more diverse workplace comes with great opportunities and significant challenges. Organizations will need to find ways to overcome the “generational gap” associated with the perception that older employees are “taking jobs” from younger employees and are not keeping current with technology, therefore less productive. Or from the mature employees point of view, the Millennials are “lazy” and don’t have work ethics of yesteryear. Here are some recommendations Karen suggests:

First, we need to communicate with each other about it. This seems obvious, but how often do the generations really talk about this situation with each other? It tends to get talked about through politicians and the media, rather than in collaborative, hands-on, deliberately multigenerational conversations.

These conversations are crucial not only to get our fears and perceptions out in the open, but also to clear up the misconceptions that can lead us all to make decisions based on incorrect information or assumptions.

Second, we need to explore alternative solutions together based on the probable future, not the past. Yes, social security was an effective solution to many problems that stemmed from the Great Depression, and it continues to be a necessary element in our economy, but pursuing ways to once again push millions of post-65/70 people out of the workforce is not going to work. Being 65/70 today is not even close to what it was in prior eras.

Third, we should look at generational partnerships, such as job sharing/mentorship arrangements that enable two people to be employed instead of one, enable training costs and salary to combine, stretching a company’s dollar and quickening the pace at which younger employees can gain the skills, knowledge, and some of the experience they need to be more valuable to that company and in the marketplace. These could work with a shifting percentage of time, starting with the mentor working 3/4 of the job, then gradually decreasing to 1/2, then 1/4, with an ultimate shift into mentoring another employee or into a consultant arrangement.

Fourth, we need to encourage people over 60 (in fact over 40) to remain employed by starting their own businesses as entrepreneurs or by creating new profit centers within their current companies and organizations. These could range from simple solopreneurs to larger operations that will both remove the competition for the same job between two generations, while it generates additional employment.

People, organizations, and governments need to focus on encouraging experienced professionals and executives, especially women, to start businesses with a strong focus on the Triple Bottom Line In this way, we can solve or at least ameliorate multiple societal problems simultaneously through the specific social missions of these companies as well as their effect on the job market, offering a way for all generations to make a living and a difference, and to secure their future and that of the world for generations to come. This means many leaders will need to expand their perspective about how jobs get accomplished and by whom.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills. You can download the first three chapters of the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Emerging Leaders and Managers for free.

About the Authors:
Karen Sands, MCC, BCC is a Visionary Game Changer and Leading GeroFuturist™ on the Longevity Economy, the Business of Aging, and Ageless Aging. An advocate for The New Story of Our Age, she is a “visionary with wrinkles” who empowers people to rock their AGE. High-impact Certified Master & Mentor Coach for visionary world shakers, conscious entrepreneurs, sacred activists and change makers 40+ who are ready to shape the world and their role in it. A Trusted Advisor and expert authority on careers post 40, midlife reinvention, Boomers and women 40+ in the new business of aging for go-getters who want to stay in sync with the people who keep them in business. #1 Amazon Best Selling Author, Firecracker Speaker and All-Around Trailblazing Game Changer.

Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Metcalf & Associates, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.