Life expectancies have risen sharply in recent decades, from an average age of under 53 years in 1960 to 72 years in 2017. And in high-income countries, the average life expectancy is closer to 80 years of age.1 Given longer lives and longer work lives across the globe, fewer people today are adhering to a career model defined by three key phases of professional working life: school, work and retirement. Instead, a multistage life is increasingly common — one in which individuals may go in and out of the workforce, work part time or join the gig economy, and get new training or credentials in midlife or later. As workforces live longer and delay retirement, employers are struggling to evolve models, practices and policies that align with this new reality. To permit people to extend working life and remain productive into older age, employers must become "age ready" — or risk losing out on the benefits this growing segment has to offer. Another important factor is ensuring these employees are not victims of age discrimination — a common prejudice that often goes overlooked even in organizations committed to employment equity and that embrace the most comprehensive Diversity & Inclusion strategies. A Global Workforce of Experienced Employees   Mercer's "Next Stage: Are You Age-Ready" report reveals that, though populations across the world are living and working longer, the Asia Pacific region is feeling the greatest impact from a rapidly emerging generation of experienced employees. In fact, the report states that there will more than 200 million people age 65 and older between 2015 and 2030. Japan is becoming the world's first "ultra-aged" population, where those over 65 years of age will comprise more than 28% of the population. Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan — designated as "super-aged" populations — are not far behind, with more than 21% of their citizens soon becoming 65 and older. Increasing life expectancies have forced mature employees to face some difficult decisions. While many continue working out of a desire to learn new skills, connect with others or satisfy a desire to contribute to society, some aging workers don't have that choice. Instead, these employees continue working simply to finance the costs of their extended lives. Getting older is expensive, and weakening pension systems, poor savings habits in a context of inequalities in income growth, and low interest rates have all conspired to undermine the security once taken for granted by those nearing retirement age. Aging workers who opt not to retire present their employers, as well as incoming generations of younger workers, with unprecedented challenges and opportunities. Dispelling Preconceived Notions and Biases   Though workplaces around the world have greatly improved their efforts to curtail discrimination related to an employee's race, sexual orientation and gender, efforts to address age discrimination are often overlooked. Here are some of the most entrenched and damaging myths concerning seasoned employees, according to Mercer's Next Stage report: 1.  Myth: "Experienced workers are less productive." Truth: Extensive research dispels the myth that job performance declines with age. 2.  Myth: "Experienced workers have difficulties learning new skills and technologies." Truth: The hurdle here is not that these workers have difficulties learning new skills, but rather they often haven't previously received the training necessary to advance certain skills or knowledge. However, research shows that 85% of workers, including experienced employees, actively seek opportunities for skills development and technical training to enhance their career development possibilities. 3.  Myth: "Experienced workers are more costly." Truth: Pay can be higher for increased age (and responsibility) but older workers can significantly reduce costs for employers in other ways, like through reduced turnover rates. In Mercer's data, some drop off in pay for the same level of job is experienced as workers age. Mercer's penetrating research and analysis on the productivity levels, learning intent and capacities, and employer expenses related to experienced workers reveals a much more nuanced and complex relationship between older employees and their younger colleagues. Even in study cases where older workers did show lower individual productivity levels, the assessments did not account for key nuances, such as the time dedicated to mentoring, training and guiding others instead of focusing on their individual performances. Expanding the Value of Experienced Employees   Businesses must learn to capitalize on the talents, skills and potential of mature employees who are postponing retirement. Mercer's Global Talent Trends 2019 report states that the integration of modern technologies into corporate HR systems presents older employees with powerful tools that can teach them new, valuable skills. In addition, these technologies provide them with curated career development paths using specialized learning functionalities and predictive software algorithms. Corporate learning platforms can be used to shape content relevant to a particular ambition, close a skills gap or build connections among peers who can share expertise. Curated learning programs also allow employees to develop at their own pace and earn credentials based on benchmarks determined by personal career objectives. Professional development opportunities for experienced employees are also limited by many employers' inability to accurately assess the value and scope of their contributions. Mercer's Next Stage report argues that experienced workers can contribute significantly to organizational performance through their deep institutional knowledge, social capital specific to the business and technical or content expertise honed from years of on-the-job practice. Also, critical soft skills, such as listening, communicating, collaborating and team building, are commonly undervalued. Businesses that rely on common proxies for performance, such as performance ratings, promotion probability and pay, are likely to under-appreciate the contributions of their experienced workers and miss opportunities to better leverage their work. By maximizing the value and potential of experienced workers, employers can create new professional development opportunities that leverage these workers' experience, expertise and life-knowledge. With age comes wisdom. When empowered, experienced employees can lead their companies into the future — guided by their invaluable experience with the past. Sources: 1. "Life expectancy at birth, total (years)." The World Bank, 2017,

Pat Milligan | 19 Dec 2019

Many organizations today recognize that advancing women in the workforce offers one of the biggest opportunities to impact business growth and innovation. But improving gender imbalance in organizations has proven to be a challenge. Although organizations have been taking steps toward greater gender parity, we are still decades away from realizing the full potential of the female workforce. As Mercer’s When Women Thrive, Businesses Thrive research has made clear, change doesn’t happen unless business leaders understand the business imperative and use data and analytics to get at the root cause of gender imbalance in their own organization. But helping women thrive also means organizations must have a deep understanding of and sensitivity to the psychology of all the individuals involved – and they need committed role models with the passion and courage to lead change. Changing the behavior of all individuals who make up the organizations – or changing the organizational culture is more difficult than many change management projects because: · Men matter, but may not be engaged as equal partners. Our research found that female representation is higher in organizations with men who actively support diversity and inclusion (D&I), yet only 38% said men were engaged in these efforts. · Much behavior is unconscious, so is not responsive to training or communication campaigns. Although conscious bias does play some role in persistent gender imbalances, unconscious beliefs and behaviors are far more prevalent — and far more difficult to address. In fact, traditional diversity training may actually impede D&I efforts by highlighting our differences while failing to offer strategies for overcoming unconscious biases. · Underlying differences in how women and men view things like uncertainty and respond to processes are misunderstood and perpetuate gender imbalances. Research suggests that men and women may view the hiring process differently; for example, men may see it as being more susceptible to relationships and advocacy or self-promotion, and women may see it as being more rigidly based on qualifications. These differences matter when processes are designed for and reward certain traits and perceptions while undervaluing others — and they can lead to persistent gender imbalances that are not responsive to traditional D&I efforts. · Feelings can get in the way. It’s important to recognize the negative emotions that accompany any change — emotions that affect everyone involved. For example, men may see the effort to reach gender parity as a zero-sum game in which women win and men lose. They may fear a loss of status and privilege, but simultaneously feel discouraged from taking advantage of programs designed to promote work-life balance and level the playing field, such as flex time and family leave policies. At the same time, some women may be reluctant to take on stretch assignments or climb aggressively up the corporate ladder, fearing potential tradeoffs with other priorities, especially in the absence of adequate conversation with male counterparts on how to balance. The answer is not to change people, but to change processes and practices to meet people where they are. This means: · Setting measurable goals based on the business imperative and results of analysis about where women are getting hung up in their career progression. For example, the organization may decide it needs more women in profit and loss roles or wants to retain more women after they have children. · Identifying the behaviors that will lead to these outcomes and modeling them. This may mean increasing the number of women who apply for certain roles, for example, or increasing the percentage of men who take advantage of parental leave. · Understanding what underlies existing behavior and choosing the best means of driving the new behaviors. For example, if internal research reveals that men will apply for a new role with only 40% certainty that they will do well in it, whereas women will not apply unless they are 80% certain, the organization can implement practices designed to get women to that 80% threshold more quickly. Such practices could include offering additional training or enhancing potential applicants’ understanding of the role to make it easier to compare one’s skillset with that required. · Leaders and role models modeling the desired behaviors across all levels of the organization. It has been our great pleasure over the past four years to work with trailblazing organizations that are capitalizing on the drivers proven to accelerate progress on gender diversity. The question now is whether more organizations will act to make change for good. Given the rewards – from higher productivity and engagement to enhanced innovation and growth – we are more hopeful than ever that the answer is “yes.”

Pat Milligan | 12 Jun 2018

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