What Is The Best Age To Lead?
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What Is The Best Age To Lead?

One of the most desired characteristics in new hires is leadership. It’s no surprise then that many executives define leadership as the capacity to translate vision into reality.

The means by which leaders translate ideas into outcomes are varied: emotional and social intelligence, comfort with ambiguity and conflict and the ability to focus on key items that could develop or damage a desired outcome.

So, when tasked with identifying leadership in candidates, are there any clues that managers, team leads and executives can look for?

Where Are Leaders Found?

Recent research suggests that the answer may be more obvious than we think. In fact, while several mental faculties decline as we age, other cognitive abilities can stay stable or even improve.

In 2009, Denise Park, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Dallas, and Patricia Reuter-Lorenz at the University of Michigan set out to show that the brain has more flexibility than previously thought.

They posited that as the brain’s cognition runs into challenges it will find new ways to work around them. This flexibility was called the Scaffolding Theory of Aging and Cognition (STAC).

In other words an older person may use more regions of the brain to accomplish a task than a younger individual, but both people could do the job equally well.

Judgement Like Wine

As companies wrestle with how best to identify and work with experienced professionals, the cognitive benefits associated with experience are particularly interesting:

As adults accumulate more experience, the cognitive function associated with solving interpersonal or abstract problems often improves.

Further, the ability to value and perceive the future equally to the present generally improves with age.

Finally, the ability to regulate emotions and cope with difficult situations and negative feelings also gets better with age.

What does this mean for employers? According to Quartz at Work’s article on the research of Darlene Howard, a psychologist emerita at Georgetown University, it means that for most people, the ideal time to tackle leadership roles is in their 50’s.

What about for boomers and experienced professionals? Although physical limitations increase as retirement draws near, seasoned individuals increasingly have the mental faculties required to lead others through abstract, complex and emotionally fatiguing problems.

Emerging science has proven that there is room to excel in the workforce for the 50+ crowd despite what the world might of those approaching retirement.

For the skeptics, a look at the CEOs of the top 10 companies in the world (Walmart, Apple, Amazon, General Motors, Exxon Mobil,CVS Health, Mckesson, UnitedHealth Group and Berkshire Hathaway) shows that nine of these companies had CEOs over 50 with seven CEOs in this list being between 50 and 60.

Whether it’s a short-term hire, a project lead or an executive, science seems to be showing that wisdom works.

How To Handle Multiple Generations in the Workplace
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How To Handle Multiple Generations in the Workplace

Technology and innovation have reinvented, extended and expanded the very notion of work. Coupled with the aftermath of the 2009 financial crisis, improved healthcare and extended life spans, it’s no surprise that employees are choosing to stay in the workplace longer.

As HR Advisor Daily reports, one of the most unique and challenging aspects of extended careers and pre-retirements is the number of generations working together.

In 1994, only about 12 percent of the workforce was aged 55 or over. By 2024, approximately 25% of the workforce is projected to be over the age of 55. This trend has created a powerful phenomenon – more generations than ever before in the workplace.

Today many workplaces span five generations:

Traditionalists – born before 1946

Baby Boomers – born between 1946 to 1964

Generation X – born between 1964 and 1976

Millenials (also known as Generation Y) – born between 1977 and 1997

Generation Z – born after 1997

Interestingly, an article in the Harvard Business Review articulates that for the first time in history, five generations will soon be working side by side. Learning to work with and manage multiple generations in the workplace will become essential for teams and individuals looking to thrive in the modern economy.

Corporate cultures and individuals who follow these five tenets will improve the likelihood of achieving harmonious working relationships across multiple generations:

  • Dwell on similarities, not differences
  • Build relationships through collaboration, both on-site and off-site
  • Study your team members to understand how they communicate
  • Create opportunities for cross-generational mentoring (as we like to call it, inter-generational knowledge transfer)
  • Listen to your team to understand where they are on their life path

In our experience, facilitating inter-generational knowledge transfer is one of the most powerful tools available to companies and individuals to adapt to the demands of the modern economy.

As more companies shift their thinking around diversity to be more inclusive of experience and age diversity, the workplace will begin to reflect the wealth of wisdom and talent of local communities.

Shortage of Skilled Labour Hurting Growth
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Shortage of Skilled Labour Hurting Growth

According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, a shortage of skilled labour is hurting growth prospects of construction firms in Ontario. Government officials cited the “large number of retirements with the baby boomers retiring and moving on out of the industry” as one of the key drivers of the shortage in skilled labour.

According to the survey, 69 per cent of contractors in Ontario expect to have difficulty finding skilled workers while 62 per cent say they have experienced a shortage of skilled labour in the sector in the past three years.

A dearth of skilled labour is not restricted to Central Canada – in fact key provinces in Atlantic Canada are facing the same challenge in the construction industry. Notably the Construction Association of Prince Edward Island has launched an initiative to “increase access to skilled labour”.

What The Boomer Brain Drain Means For You
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What The Boomer Brain Drain Means For You

The boomer brain drain is the growing trend of boomer workers retiring or leaving the full-time workforce and employers failing to put plans in place for their departure.

In Canada alone, over 30,000 baby boomers leave the workforce every month. In the United States that number is estimated to be up to ten to twelve times as large. As thousands of baby boomers retire or leave the workforce daily across North America, stemming the brain drain will become a critical issue.

In this fascinating Forbes article, we see that as experienced professionals continue to leave the workforce, companies suffer by losing institutional knowledge, relationship, process and corporate process know-how and names of key contacts.

All of this information is useful to the workers who will step in to handle these roles.

This is particularly important to help companies facilitate knowledge transfer. In fact, Forbes cites that:

  • 4 million boomers leave the workforce
  • 56% of retiring boomers are in leadership positions

What does this mean for boomers and for employers?

Quite simply that they need each other. Employers are starting to recognize the value of having experienced professionals available to fill critical gaps and boomers are starting to realize that there is demand for experienced leaders.