How older employees can stay relevant in the future workplace

Enough about Millennials and Generation Z; what about older workers? How will they survive and remain relevant in a future workplace that's made up of younger talent and dominated by technology?

A recent Forbes article notes that although Millennials are expected to account for half of the workforce in just five years' time, employers shouldn't ignore those who are over the age of 50. At the same time, this demographic can be taking their own steps to ensure that they don't get overlooked - here are some suggestions:

1. Don't fight change

Rather than resisting change, older workers should be adaptable and willing to give new ideas a go. Don't cling to old ways of doing things just for the sake of tradition; practices such as annual reviews and even sitting at a desk for eight hours a day are on their way out, so be prepared for change.

2. Stop viewing Millennials as a threat

Some older workers can become territorial over their roles and view Millennials as the enemy, but a much more practical approach is to team up with younger talent and build amiable working relationships with them. As well as possibly learning a thing or two, you will open yourself up to more opportunities than can be gained by creating a 'them/us' environment.

3. Keep your skills up-to-date

Once you've realized that you need to keep aware of the latest workplace technologies and processes, you need to set about actually learning them. Whether it's coding, creating a marketing strategy or programming, there are a number of websites and open courses that can keep you on top of your game.

4. Strengthen your personal brand

Establishing a strong personal brand - that is, marketing yourself in a way that you want to be known for professionally - can help you stick in people's minds better, and gives a clear indication of your area of expertise when somebody searches for you.

5. Get networking

Good old-fashioned networking is still an effective way to get your name out there and ensure that you're in the right place, at the right time. Knowing the right people can still go a long way towards boosting your career, and just a few good connections can bring numerous opportunities.

The Blasé Index

 We live in an age of miracles. It is a miracle that;

  • I can watch West Ham United play live while I’m on a plane flying across the middle of America
  • My brother - who lives near London - and I can see each other while we talk on a screen I hold in my hand while I’m shopping in Whole Foods in Ridgewood, New Jersey
  • My car can direct me through the canyons of Manhattan as though I’ve lived there all my life
  • I can instantaneously find out the name of the song playing in Starbucks with two taps of my phone
  • I can use my Double to wander around the office when I’m not there
  • I know how many steps I’ve walked today
  • I can sell a stock with three clicks of my mouse 
  • You’re reading this.

All of these things have become possible since my father passed away, 22 short years ago. To him, all of these things would have been science fiction.

To us, they’re all so-so, ordinary, expected, business as usual, cool but so what. They are simply modern life.

The incredible pace, depth, breadth, and reach of innovation – and of the assimilation of innovation – during the last few decades, has had the unintended consequence of making us more and more hard to please. Harder and harder to impress. More demanding, more entitled, more spoiled, more cynical. You might say that the Blasé Index has never been higher.

The unprecedented height the Blasé Index has reached is making us lose track of how wondrous and wonderful these days are. Of the luxury, the joy, the ease, the fulfillment, the pleasure, the fun, the excitement, the amazement, the possibilities, the splendor we are now surrounded with. The high BI rating is in danger of making us miss the wood for the trees, focus on our seasickness not the incredible views, feel the thorns but not smell the roses. 

What will it take to lower the Blasé Index? 4D 360° VR Bodysuits? A colony on Mars? A multi-functional, fashionable looking exoskeleton? A personal robot happily homesteading on the plateau of productivity? A non-email based collaboration tool that doesn’t suck?

Perhaps. But perhaps there’s a simpler, more straightforward way. Perhaps we should just pause for a second – individually, corporately, institutionally, societally – to re-consider our Age of Miracles, to stop and think about just how amazing these technological advances are and how lucky we are to be living amidst them.

Rather than moan about how slow the Wi-Fi in the airport lounge is, just think how amazing it is that you’re watching Mad Men on your 1LB piece of glass, before you sit in a Lazy Boy for 10 hours, and end up on the other side of the world. All the time waited on like you’re Louis XIV.

Rather than bitch that the expense management system is taking three seconds to render, remind yourself how lucky you are that you don’t have to hand-deliver all the paperwork to Maureen in accounts down on the 16th floor. Given that Maureen is six thousand miles away and is now called Khalda and that you’re sitting on your deck in your kimono.

Rather than short Apple because they only sold 75m iPhones in Q4 2014 (rather than the 77m you were expecting) remember that the iPhone generated more money in that one quarter than all of Apple did in 2009.

Rather than tear what remains of your hair out because your occasional commute is taking 10 minutes longer than normal, luxuriate in the extra few minutes you have to enjoy the last few bars of Parry’s Blest Pair of Sirens on your wireless-Bluetooth-noise-cancelling-surround-sound-ear-phones.    

Man you are truly blessed.

Of course, the paradox of the Age of Miracles/High BI Index is, in part, driven by the uneven distribution of blessings, which weighs heavily on the consciences and spirits of many. It’s amazing that we can see our kid’s gap year pictures in real time on Facebook. Those poor North African immigrants in the background. Look, the neighbor just rolled up in a Tesla. Life stinks. Warren ’16.   

Our blessings lose their power quickly while the Madison Avenue induced desire for the blessings just out of reach (i.e. next door) retain their terrible potency indefinitely.

But just consider again how wonderful my list of miracles really is. Your list of miracles is probably quite different. Miracles, I suppose, like beauty, are in the eye of the beholder. But whatever yours are, don’t forget how incredible they are. Don’t forget to thank whatever temporal or supernatural force you have with you in your metaphorical fox-hole. Don’t forget that the technology that powers our Age of Miracles has created more wealth, more opportunity, more health, more good fortune, for greater numbers of people, than ever before. And that whilst one shouldn’t be blasé about the need to keep spreading the wealth around (Warren ’16!) it’s ok, now and again, to stand back and be amazed by technological cathedral we are all building. It’s not simply ok, it’s a necessity.

That’s the way to lower the Blasé Index. That’s the way to re-calibrate our expectations and attitudes for the next wave of the Great Digital Revolution that our grandchildren will be taught in school in the years to come. And which will be even more miraculous than now, but which many will hardly notice. 

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