Robotics and AI are rapidly changing the way goods are manufactured today but the typical career is still stuck in 20th century assembly line thinking. Employees take an entry level job, move up the ranks, get promoted, make more money and then are forcibly put out to pasture as part of the up & out employer attitude as to how business works. Up & out is based on the principle that older workers become a liability in their 50s and 60s and that younger employees have more to offer. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
A wealth of research continues to clearly document that older workers have a resiliency to stay creative and be innovative well into what was formerly the gold watch period of their work lives. But, it’s easier for employers to push older workers out the door with a forced age-based retirement package than it is to advantageously tap into the full-range of their ever-evolving capabilities.
It’s not the fault of older workers that employers still cling to a preordained, age-driven career trajectory. Talent recruitment overall has failed to catch up with scientific evidence demonstrating older workers’ capacities to add value; a gap that prevents benefitting from the talent, experience, knowledge and cultural savvy about how things get done. The media is justifiably filled to bursting with racial profiling but the everyday angst associated with the more subtle age profiling still remains largely unaddressed. “Ageism” is a more often-used, albeit behind closed doors, term in career vocabulary than ever before as society puts a premium on younger, inexperienced workers.
Having architected Oxford Health Plan’s front-line leadership training and career development/pay for performance program, I know firsthand the effectiveness of career arcs free from forced retirement that morph into legitimate internal coaching and consulting roles. These new roles do not offer promotions and pay increases and are performance-based . The real win to employers is a truly diverse workforce and avoiding an expensive waste of human capital of employees willing to work, contribute and add value. Up & out employers just have to relinquish the outdated assumption that older workers are invaluable and instead recognize their ever-evolving skillsets, loyalty and experience.
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