If it’s not one thing it’s the next.
It’s 5pm and the coffee shop at the corner of my street has just shut. There’s still plenty of customers in the neighbourhood with tourists, commuters and locals, but the owner has been struggling to get staff, and the only sensible solution is to close early. Staff are the core of any business, without them we all might as well shut up shop and go home. However across many economies, organisations are struggling to recruit and retain staff against multiple headwinds of demographic change which are global in nature but local in impact.
Ageing populations and generational change.
Is this a real problem for the resilience of organisations? Forty countries now have shrinking working populations according to a recent Economist article so the traditional labour pool for hospitality businesses of younger people is shrinking. And it’s not just Europe but it’s world-wide. While the population is aging the proportions of each generation in the workforce is changing. As baby boomers retire, millennials and centennials will become larger proportions of the workforce with their different skill sets and aspirations shaped by their experiences in their formative years. Depending on where you are this could mean 1 in 3 staff will fall into these groups by 2020 and 75% by 2025 according to Forbes. So less younger workers and their changed outlooks mean this is a slow motion and continuing disruption to every organisation now and in the future.
It’s all in the mind.
All disruptions are an opportunity for an organisation which is resilient, and preparing for them is key. 50% of children born today will live to over 100. Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott’s book about living and working in an age of longevity ‘The 100 year Life ‘ is one possible approach for us all. Serial careers, lifelong learning, family, health and wealth are all impacted by increase lifespans. Organisations need to adapt as well, older workers may not be as physically fit but bring reliability and experience while younger staff bring vitality and tech savvy working. A family friend went to work 2 days a week for B&Q, the national DIY retail chain after retiring as company director. Who wouldn’t trust him to offer advice on the right tool or fitting for a home improvement project? On the other hand younger workers increasingly find difficulty affording housing so one hospitality business in Palo Alto attracted staff with discounted accommodation. Another business had reverse mentoring with younger workers mentoring the more senior executives, especially around new technology and social trends.
So how to prepare for demographic change?
Accepting these changes are happening already mean that baby boomers like myself need to view things in the workplace differently. There are a whole raft of possible and practical ways to address this and build resilience depending on your circumstances, but for me these come down to three key things;
- Creating a workplace culture which is deliberately diverse in age, gender and ability, not only reduces the risk to the organisation but taps into the widest possible workforce and range of talents.
- Making positive changes to workplace practices and facilities to support the culture means that each individual is valued, retained for longer and is more effective day to day.
- Removing barriers to enable each generation to play its part according to individual ability and need whether they are practical or less tangible such as housing, re-training or flexible working.
Resilience of organisations means that all aspects must work together effectively, in a changing world creating advantage from disruption will ensure the organisation is sustained, and can thrive and grow. I believe building resilience into your organisation’s workplace will prepare it for demographic change so you don’t have to close early!.
Gratton, L and Scott, A.,2016. The 100 year life. Living in and Age of Longevity.
The author, Paul Hancock is a Resilience Consultant at 360 Resilience Ltd. 360resilience.com