THE BLOG

Can Age Ever Be More Than Just A Number?

04/11/2016 13:26

As a​ culture we celebrate the ideal of youth. We create terms by which to classify it ('millennials' or 'Gen x/y/z'), and as employers we court it - using recruitment initiatives designed to vacuum up new talent.

And, perhaps most visibly, we celebrate it in popular culture and politics.

Of course I am not suggesting that young people aren't vital to businesses, society or the wider economy. Far from it. We need new talent, new ideas and fresh thinking if we are to continue to innovate.

But do these qualities reside solely with the young? Does our pursuit of youth run the risk of excluding older, more experienced individuals and overlooking the valuable insight they offer?

We all have a vital role to play in closing the generational skills gap - the UK has one of the highest skilled workforces in the world, but a low level of employment among the over 50s. With the retirement age rising, and the 'gig economy' creating more and more portfolio careers, businesses need to do more to re-engage older generations in the world of work today. In ten years time, the number of people aged between 50 and the current state pension age will have swelled by an incredible 3.7 million.

This demographic bulge will force us as a society to look again at more experienced candidates for roles. But why should we wait to be forced to tap into these ready-made pools of talent? I believe that businesses need to do more to re-engage older generations in the world of work today. As employers we have a responsibility - as well as a clear commercial opportunity - to encourage older people to look again at new careers and make it easier for them to switch roles.

Some businesses are already tapping into this pool of talent and tailoring initiatives designed to help people transition to new opportunities more easily. Businesses like PwC have embraced 'reverse mentoring' strategies, which pair older workers with younger counterparts to upskill them in areas such as technology and encourage closer collaboration between generations. Others are encouraging older people to take on internships to sample different roles in new sectors.

Despite this good work, there is much more to be done if we are to connect different generations with new opportunities. In fact, LinkedIn research has shown that one in three parents has no idea what their child does at work - a worrying disconnect which prevents both parents and children from sharing their knowledge - even though they both confess to wanting more advice.

So, although we may recognise the value of their knowledge, we are not seizing the opportunity to learn from one another, which is why LinkedIn launched Bring In Your Parents Day ​ in 2013​ - a day designed to break down career 'barriers' between parents and their children.

This initiative saw ​hundre​ds of businesses welcome their employees' parents into the workplace. Parents were given the opportunity to learn first hand about their child's job, professionals were able to say 'thank you' for the guidance and support they had been given, and both generations were shown the value of learning from each other.

I believe that we all have a vital role to play in closing the generational gap. The answer to solving the problem of the UK's ageing workforce is not as simple as shifting recruitment policy in favour of older candidates, but instead requires a more collaborative attitude, increased employee engagement and skill sharing.

Isn't it time that 'experience isn't wasted on the old' becomes a familiar refrain?

LinkedIn's Bring In Your Parents Day is being held on the 4th November 2016. It will see businesses across the UK throwing open their doors to the parents of their employees to give parents an insight into what their child does at work and encourage cross-generational skill swapping. ​Visit biyp.linkedin.com for more information, and join the conversation #BIYP​

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