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The one with the peculiar shuffle

Elephant in the room - aging workforce

Posted by: martyn-chapman

Employee Development

Look, the time has come, and we can’t ignore it any longer. Let’s talk about the last taboo, the elephant in the room. The grey, slightly cynical fifty-eight year old elephant to be precise. The one who is two years away from retirement, who has clocked up nearly forty years of commendable service, and whose best friend has set up a commune in Torquay. The elephant who is now beginning to view motivation like securing the belt on his trousers – the older worker.

Yes, let’s talk about me

Hey, but don’t you dare write me off or accuse me of being slow, lazy or lacking ambition. Of course, I’m open to new ideas and challenges. I want to build a garden pond that will act as a staycation for newts. I want to do voluntary work in a COVID vaccination centre, read Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and watch cute puffins from a rickety boat. I want to make marmalade.

But with regards to the work thing, I can no longer deny the truth. Many moons ago I enthusiastically entered a marathon. And now, four hundred meters from the finish line, I have developed cramp. I am adamant that I will successfully reach the end, but I’m now running in a funny way and my body language conveys the strain.

What on earth can an employer do with me?

It’s not entirely an age thing. A feeling of a lack of purpose or a shift in perspective can happen to a thirty-eight year old. But the situation is different here. The younger person has a much bigger range of options.

Provided their manager has picked up that their current job is no longer right for them, the company might be able to offer them a different role within the team or a move to another part of the company. A suitable training course could give them another string to their bow and re-invigorate their career. Depending on their behavioural make-up and their ambitions, they could apply for promotion or retrain entirely.

But I don’t desire any of that now, and no one is going to pay me to set up an adventure park for newts. I am no less conscientious than I was forty years ago, and I certainly don’t expect an easy ride. I want to complete my final two years in a positive and productive manner. I want to retain my colleagues’ respect. I want to hear them quietly say on my way out: “The newts’ gain is our loss”.

So, what can I as a more senior employee offer?

Well, if I come to you with my concerns about my current role, don’t see my anarchic grey hair or peculiar shuffle as something negative. See them as a sign of wisdom and experience. I’m very enthusiastic to share my knowledge, my accomplishments, even the failures I’ve witnessed.

Towards the end of the marathon, I’ve just become a bit tired. I do want to reach the finish line, but I don’t have a desire to lead anymore or take on new responsibilities. Those nauseous two words ‘development opportunity’ bring my skin out in a rash.

But I do want to support. I want to mentor. I want my boss to say: “It would be wonderful if you could guide young Jack through the process and nurture him into the great manager you became.” I want to put something back.

But perhaps I’m one of the lucky ones. With the state pension age in the UK drifting beyond the mid-sixties, there might be senior workers who have many years of frustration to face. So, a final thought, do we urgently need to plan for this new generation of trapped employees?

But where to start?

The foreword to the UK Government’s ‘Future of an Aging Population’ report reads: “The UK is not making the most of the opportunities afforded by an ageing population. Too many people are forced out of work in later life by poor health or unwelcoming attitudes in the workplace.” With more than a third of the UK workforce in the over 50s bracket, companies are tasked with creating a culture of inclusion.

The starting point has to be to really know what makes your people tick, and facilitate the right conversations around their career aspirations. At RPX2 Ltd, we are passionate about helping our clients leverage scientific data to get the best out of their people – irrespective of where they are in their career path. Why not contact us for an informal chat?

Some of us are just waiting for the starting gun to commence our marathon, some of us perhaps are already finding ourselves at the 20-mile mark and are hitting the wall. For others the finishing line is in sight, and they yearn to pass it with a sprint not a stagger. With very few exceptions, no matter where we are in our race, we would all like to receive our eventual medal with our heads held high and an appreciation of a race well run.

Don’t risk losing engagement amongst your senior workers – or indeed their valuable expertise or experience!