A touch of grey (hair)
Companies talk a lot about bringing “diversity” into their organization. But, for all their stated desires, the fact of the matter is that it is easier said than done. Introducing or increasing diversity (be it more women, different ethnicities, people with disabilities, and those with grey hair) into an organization is not the easier path and, given the constant short-term pressure on results, efforts to introduce diversity frequently find a natural resistance against change. Bringing diversity into a company is one of the BIG THREE in terms of REAL MYNDSET SHIFTS (the other two being enterprise 2.0 [including social media / community management] and sustainable development). Diversity must be a company-wide engagement, most effectively implemented when top management demonstrates authentic leadership and appropriately models the behavior and attitude. And the mindset change is necessary in order to overcome the challenges that inevitably occur when integrating diverse opinions and backgrounds.
I firmly believe that, longer term, the companies that are able to forge a more balanced workforce will gain long-term survival skills including the ability to change, the width of creativity and the environment for learning. On top of the benefits of a poly-cultural, broad ranging body of thinkers and doers, this is going to be a long-term winning model for two major reasons:
- the international playing field : aside from understanding the different cultures, speaking the different languages, there are so many good things happening all around, it is necessary to be plugged in to as many environments as possible. Good ideas can just as easily come from Brazil, Korea and Timbuktu…
- the younger generations are not only attuned to more ‘diversity’, they are coming to expect it. Clans of ‘schoolmates’ or ‘cigar smokers’ (etc…) in the board room are just are too stuffy for the younger recruits.
There is a particular interest today in giving value to the “grey haired” in that, for all the excitement in new technologies, there is a need to build up management skills as well as transfer expertise and residual knowledge. Companies need to get on the bandwagon and find ways to “re-integrate” the grey hairs into the lifeblood of the company, especially since the retirement age is bound to extend further past 70 in the years ahead in many countries with social security and budget deficits. Moreover, it is a building block for the learning organization, where learning takes place in informal manners, across all boundaries, including age.
This post is part of a 3 part series on the value of GREY MATTER. Here is post #1: The Grey Matter(s): The Brain & Getting Energy