Last week the UK Government announced plans to scrap the default retirement age of 65 with effect from April 2011. From a personal point of view, this is a really positive decision. I am a huge advocate of the freedom to choose, for the individual to be able to make their own decisions based on their own circumstances as opposed to having legislation forcing such decisions. What however is the impact on employment?
Succession planning is clearly impacted by this decision. Currently business are forced to focus on succession planning by legislation. The benefit of the DRA is in the creation of a specific timeframe that businesses can work to. The impact of the scrapping of the DRA may create some confusion, but it will force employers and employees to have open, frank discussions about plans and intentions for the good of all. Surely a positive development.
The impact on management style and technique is positive. Succession planning, talent management and in particular employee engagement and retention of key staff will be forced to the top of the business agenda (frankly they should be their anyway, but they are not). The fact that employees are not retiring at 65 may create a block on opportunity for those younger employees who had been picked out to succeed the retiree. The positive will be that organisations will have to genuinely engage with people (as opposed to paying lip service) to understand their ambitions and focus on initiatives that ensure they remain engaged, motivated and retained. Organisations are going to have to come up with ever more innovative ways of retaining top talent to succeed.
We are going to have to get a whole lot better at performance management. This change will force us to address the underperforming 64-year-old in the same way we should be managing the underperforming 30-year-old, rather than simply letting time take care of things.
With a number of notable exceptions (professional sports like Football and Rugby spring to mind), talent is not defined by age. What matters is your attitude. As a boy I had two incredible grandmothers, both of whom I adored. From my earliest memories, one always appeared old. She dressed “old”, acted “old”, didn’t like change, kept to a routine, was not physically active and remained that way for the 35 or so years I was fortunate to have had her in my life. The other was the complete opposite, lively, positive, fit, active, happy to give anything a go, to go anywhere, to take on new experiences, she loved to see how technology was evolving and how we were using it even as kids (I remember that Atari oh so well!) and she stayed that way until the day she passed away. They died at roughly the same age, and yet they were generations apart.
Assuming you are fit and healthy, age should not be a limiting factor in the workplace. I know immature 50 year olds and people in their teens with maturity beyond their years. I have a great – grandmother (in law) in her eighties with a netbook, ipod and facebook profile who surfs the net every morning and I have a 37-year-old friend who cannot SMS. I have a father in his 60’s who texts in a language only my 15-year-old nephew can understand!
My point is that age does not define us. We are living longer. Technology is an integral part of our lives, our ability to utilise it is not dictated by our age but by our attitude, by our willingness to embrace change, to engage with new tools. Our contribution in the workplace is not defined by age. We should be free to work on our terms for as long as we want to, as long as we are contributing and adding value to our employers, colleagues and customers and ourselves.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Louis Armstrong who sums this issue up perfectly….
“There is no such thing as ‘on the way out’ as long as you are still doing something interesting and good; you’re in the business because you’re breathing”