Appreciating the potential of the 50+ demography

The 50+ generation as a hidden opportunity for business and the labor market was the subject of a debate held by experts invited by BIGRAM S.A.

The starting point for the discussion were the results of research involving a group of silvers. One of the inspirations for organizing the meeting was a forecast presented by PwC suggesting a shortage of 1.5m people on the labor market until the end of 2025. The panelists wondered whether the 50+ generation could be the antidote to the future events.

They indicated how a lot is being said about the millenials, while not nearly enough about the silvers, the 50+ generation, resulting in many prevalent myths, even though in 2040 the latter group will make up more than a half of the Polish society.

As such, they should be at the employers’ center of attention, but are not – all due to stereotypes. What kind of stereotypes? For instance one believing that they spend their Sundays going to church or that they have no idea how to use smartphones or navigate the Internet.

The most recent research, though, shows that is not the case. The 50+ demographic is characterized by diligence and appreciation of work. They are committed and responsible. Finally, they use smartphones and the Internet very well. They want to develop, personally and professionally. Unfortunately, as PwC research suggests, more than 30 % of them feel excluded from the labor market.

“The glass ceiling for 50+ employees is a fresh phenomenon in Poland,” claimed Piotr Wielgomas, BIGRAM S.A. CEO, upon opening the debate. “But it is going to affect each of us,” asserted Joanna Seklecka, eService Electronic Shared Services Centre CEO.

“People approaching retirement age have legal protections in place, but the employers may be afraid of what could happen to such an employee in 2-3 years’ time. Finally, low unemployment rate will force them to open up, and the 40-50+ employees have achieved a lot already, they are less willing to switch employers, they have knowledge and personal networks in place. They are an important group, absolutely underestimated,” Seklecka underlined.

Monika Kielak-Łokietek, Shell Board Member, confirmed that the Shell centeres have been built basing on the young generation, but they need competencies, too. “Consequently, we are open to the 50+ generation. Inclusion of mature individuals in our teams results in dynamic work. Even more so as the customers are diverse, too. Unfortunately, the 50+ generation is not as vocal about its needs as their younger counterparts,” she said.

Elżbieta Wojtczak, Communication Unlimited CEO, pointed to the need of redefining the notion of a senior citizen” which used to be associated with wisdom, but tends to take a discriminatory note these days. It would be great to rediscover its positive meaning associated with maturity.

The demography will force us to get more friendly with that generation. The managers will notice their potential, it is merely an issue of changing the 30-year-olds’ perception of older people. Life does not end at the age of 50 or 60,” said Adam Mamok, Essilor Polonia Deputy CEO.

“I am 50+: 50 years past retirement,” joked Yoram Reshef, Blue City Deputy CEO. “I have several 50+ employees and I would not trade any one of them for a younger person. What is 50, after all? For working people being 50 means nothing. In the US, 50+ employees are being recruited for managerial jobs these days. I am 74 years old and still I’m not getting as tired as my children, who cannot handle doing two things at the same time. They have no concept of responsibility,” he insisted.

Paweł Ornatek, PROFI CEO, focused on how forced solutions are the last resort, as a consequence of the demographic gap, among other things, and their negative impact on the atmosphere surrounding hiring. “It is up to the managers to believe that opening up to the 50+ group makes sense. Full diversification of teams is a necessity. It provides added productivity and lets us tap into diverse experiences of the 50+ individuals,” Ornatek added.

What does the 50+ generation bring to their organizations? Joanna Seklecka said “They have very good situational perception and are able to deliver constructive criticism. Sometimes it’s better to have an older person do a task because they will get the job done with their patience and involvement.”

Still, the speakers agreed that 50+ candidates continue to be at a disadvantage in interviews. Employers prefer 30-year-olds with comparable competences.

“We’re up against a wall with idolizing youth. On one hand there are declarations of opening up to 50+ candidates, on the other – 30-year-old candidates prevail in recruitment agencies,” observed Mr. Mamok, adding that in Scandinavia, 50+ individuals continue to be active on the job market. The same is true for the USA.

How do we encourage the Polish silvers to apply and be active? Renewing their confidence and courage may be one of the solutions.

Mr. Wielgomas reminded the participants of other aspects in senior citizens’ professional careers: volunteering, mentoring or transitional periods involving pro bono or charity work.