There has been plenty of debate since Josh Frydenburg’s comments about older Australians needing to keep working. Apart from the economics, the position that concerns me most is that many mature workers feel they have to keep working, but have a very negative and demeaning experience trying to secure employment. It makes me wonder, if the discussion about mid to late careers and actively transitioning to next career phase was more openly embraced in organisations, would the transition to longer working lives and new late-life carers be more positive? Would it help the choices available to both employees and employers?
Let’s be honest, career development in our mid to late careers is complex. So, it becomes a personal decision to identify, articulate and pursue a career path. It’s empowering, when you are clear on what’s next. But what about the conversation for late career employees that are uncertain how to navigate the next 10+ years of their career?
As a career transition consultancy, we have conversations with organisations that go something like, ‘we have an employee that’s been with us a long time, and they’ve been great, and we really value them, but we’re not sure they will be able to keep pace with our strategy in the future.’ That conversation happens right before the conversation about offering transition support to manage an exit strategy.
The reason a conversation hasn’t happened prior to this point is due to fears and distrust. How many organisations are brave enough to have the conversation about what the future holds and possible directions an employee wants to take? The employee doesn’t want to raise the topic ,in case they inadvertently do themselves out of a job. The organisation doesn’t have an open conversation, in fear of causing distress or worse creating an employment issue. If this situation carries on too long it can become untenable, as frustration from managers or disengagement from employees sets in. Having that brave conversation at this late stage will be negative for everyone involved.
What if conversations around sustainable careers were built into the ongoing manager and team culture discussions? If transition is supported, there is an opportunity to positively engage employees and leverage skills, as well as create a more transparent succession plan.
What is a sustainable career?
A sustainable career is dynamic and flexible; it features continuous learning, periodic renewal, the security that comes from employability, and a harmonious fit with your skills, interests, and values.Harvard Business Review
Criteria which mature workers who have built sustainable careers report as important:
- Provides longevity
- It’s energising
- Leverages skills and experience
- Contributes to something significant
- Allows continuous learning
- It’s interesting
- Aligned with personal values
How can conversations be embedded into our work practices to increase transparency and engagement?
- Support employees to develop a growth mindset as as described by Carol Dweck in her Ted talk.
- Hold an open forum discussion as a team to discuss ideas and insights with each other. What trends are happening, how are people adapting, what may the future hold?
- Build sustainable careers into one-to-one catch ups. Employees often fear being honest about the future, in case their aims don’t align with the organisation. However, looking at five years plus allows us to imagine, within a foreseeable timeframe, without having an immediate impact.
There are more actions available than these few ideas, as each industry faces different opportunities and challenges.
If you’d like to continue the conversation about supporting career development with your mid to late career employees, please get in touch.