Business trends increasingly show that companies with a high gender and ethnicity mix perform better. It is a perfectly logical observation since such organisations do not fall into the rut of mono-perception. On the contrary, they pool in the wealth and vibrancy of diverse beliefs, outlooks, and strengths. Different vibes bounce off each other with amazing vigour.
But what about age? Do companies still value anyone 45/50+? More importantly, how many are ready to hire men and women whose old school work experience is obsolete in today’s super techy world? Don’t these people have anything to offer? Are they really beyond their sell-by-date and relegated to irrelevance?
Our world does not favour greying hair and deepening wrinkles. And it has been a while. For the obsession to look young conditions all that we do: whether it is what we eat, drink, and moreover how we dress, work, play and interact. Remember how 69-year old Emile Ratelband wanted to be officially declared 20 years younger but did not succeed? Though the authorities categorically rejected his request, Ratelband’s ludicrous obsession speaks volumes of societal pressures.
Long gone is the deference to age – especially in the workplace. This is the age of young guns striding the blast and becoming global players before turning 30. After all, they are second, even third Gates-Branson generation. Thanks to digital intelligence, a boss younger than most of the employees is the norm in today’s workplace. So too is an intergenerational staff where most of the grey and greying are in the shade.
This scenario is becoming the stereotypical image of today’s working world unless you deviate into working from home jobs or artisan niche markets. One of the most fascinating stories in Italian high-end fashion is how not long ago Bottega Veneta cajoled its retired master leather craftsmen to take up their tools once again and impart their knowledge to younger ones. A school was opened within the atelier in 2006 to ensure that faded traditional artisan techniques were not lost. Take designer fashions emerging from Africa. They are such a global hit because they seek inspiration from and funk up their traditional weaving methods, colours, and patterns. And if you want the latest www sensation, look out for Italian grannies, including a centenarian, who still make their own pasta – a tradition that is on the verge of extinction. Admittedly, keeping traditions alive in the business world makes sense where handiwork is a profitable labour of love.
Elsewhere what can young brains learn from old fogeys? The answer is emotional intelligence because they have a stash of relationships under their belt – relationships which shape and enrich life experience. It is life experience which enables a press pause button to apply wisdom and empathy to modern challenges. Having gone through many highs and lows infuses compassion into passion. This makes most of them ideally placed to praise without flattery and criticise candidly without hurting feelings. Besides, not everyone beyond 45 is technologically phobic and wise eyes are fresh.
The wisdom of years which only life can teach needs to be truly valued. More so, since we are living longer, working longer in a world that is fast embracing AI, which for all its awesome potential, must not blind us to its lack of the human touch.
It is already sad enough that the more wizard our means of communication have become, the less we are communicating on a personal and intimate level. By disconnecting rather than connecting, young people are in fact losing out on learning vital clues from body language because they are so immersed in their virtual reality world. Consequently, they have a problem interacting face-to-face. I wonder if they have a clue of when someone, for instance, is lying or bottling up emotions when sitting or standing right in front of them.
What can old fogeys learn from young brains? The answer is much more than digital intelligence and the lingo that goes with it. For starters, there is the kick of looking at the world from young eyes that presses another pause button to question long-held viewpoints. Also, the drive to keep on learning and adapting, which is just the thing to avoid stagnation and living in the past. Best of all is the magic of feeling good in young company that puts a spring in your step.
Once we shed our distrust, our awkwardness, even hostility and reach out to each other a special synergy begins to spark. Reaching out to all age groups is the key. The first step is to ensure that millennial language is translated willingly and patiently. The same goes for gizmo training. The next important step is for all of us to dump any sense of superiority and flush out a judgemental stance for there is no such thing as who is better. Acknowledging the importance of both digital and emotional intelligence plus working towards a winning combo of the two cultivates a mutual mentor relationship.
This is what nurtures reciprocal respect. And like any type of respect, it is earned not granted.
#ageism, #age, business trends, #emotional intelligence, #digital intelligence