A public school in Sydney has had to ban kids from running in the playground because it was so overcrowded. Trains have become so crowded at peak hours that many people, especially the frail and the disabled, are reluctant to use them. And those who have lost their jobs now wait for hours on the phone when they reach out to centrelink for help. Although people with low expectations are easier to con, fomenting cynicism about democracy comes at a long-term cost. Indeed, as the current crop of politicians is beginning to discover, people with low expectations feel they have nothing to lose. As more and more people live with the poverty and job insecurity that flow directly from neoliberal welfare and industrial relations policies, the scare campaigns run so successfully by the likes of the business council of Australia have lost their sting.
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Nope, the peak of the mining boom was not the time to help those who had missed out in decades past, but the howard government thought it was a great time to introduce permanent tax cuts for high-income earners. These, of course, are the tax cuts that caused the budget deficits we have today. Millions of tonnes of explosives were used during the mining boom to build more than 100 new mines, but it wasnt just prime farmland that was blasted away in the boom, it was access to the middle class. At the same time that Gina rinehart was becoming the worlds richest woman on the back of rising iron ore prices, those on the minimum wage were falling further and further behind their fellow Australians. Sign up to receive the top stories from guardian Australia every morning. Like joe hockey, rinehart saw the problem of inequality as having more to do with the character of the poor than with the rules of the game: If youre jealous of those with more money, dont just sit there and complain. Do something to make more money yourself spend less time drinking or smoking and socialising, and more time working. Australia isnt poor; it is rich beyond the imagining of anyone living in the 1970s or 80s. But so much of that new wealth has been vacuumed up by a few, and so little of that new wealth has been paid in tax, that the public has been convinced that ours is a country struggling to pay its bills. Convincing Australians book that our nation is poor and that our governments cant afford to provide the level of services they provided in the past has not just helped to lower our expectations of our public services and infrastructure, it has helped to lower our expectations.
How about a few items that are geared to older workers? Like these: Enlightened policies for eldercare support (liberal leave, geriatric manager services) Financial planning ahead of retirement counseling on Medicare and supplemental word insurance (believe me, its complicated) A formal Employee resource Group designation for those of a certain age (for example, the google Greyglers are. These are skills Ill call on for the rest of my life. Now, it would be great for many more businesses to embrace the fact that, as a recent Brookings report says, older workers possess deep work experience and expertise as well as extensive institutional knowledge and professional networks. Lets not let anything go to waste! Australia just experienced one of the biggest mining booms in world history. But even at the peak of that boom, there was no talk of the wonderful opportunity we finally had to invest in world-class mental health or domestic violence crisis services. Nor was there much talk from either major party about how the wealth of the mining boom gave us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in remote Indigenous communities.
Older workers, who often have done years of volunteering on their own, benefit from being valued for their efforts, especially if it counts toward promotions, sabbaticals, and skill building. Consider adding programs where giving back counts for something. Phased retirement The vast number of us boomers (some 10,000 a day ) rushing headlong toward 65 calls for more creative ways for us to to eventually disengage from jobs. Companies shouldnt want all resumes that institutional knowledge to walk out the door all at once. Beyond that, people dont want to—and often cant—retire at one predefined age. We want and need reviews to work; at the same time, we want to have more free and flexible schedules. Companies should devise programs ( like these ) to adjust workloads and responsibilities so that valuable workers are engaged as long as theyd like. Benefits and perks As companies add more kinds of benefits to attract recruits, hr and compensation experts should consider the whole spectrum of add-ons. Egg freezing and ivf coverage can be wonderful for those who need them; ditto for parental leave for adoptions and support for gender reassignment surgery.
If success isnt only defined by achieving manager status, theres room for more people to excel. Outside learning Its not uncommon for companies to offer a professional development allowance that covers some or all of the cost of continuing education where it has direct relevance to your current job. Thats nice, but in the era of soft skills, like creativity and eq, we should broaden what relevant means. Its not a big stretch to see how, say, an outdoor survival program or improv classes can help workers become more engaged, curious, and nimble. For training thats farther afield, a flexible spending account to which employees can contribute could be designated for this purpose. Recognition and credit for volunteer activities Many companies set aside days for volunteering at charities or for team fundraising on runs and walks. These are great ways to build camaraderie while doing a social good, not to mention giving the company reputational luster.
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Id love to see more widespread mentoring programs where the over-40 crowd can make use of their experience. Even better, lets help older employees transition into mentoring roles while theyre paid to. I know of one position at a large company where a long-time senior executive assistant became the (paid) mentor and advocate for a large group of EAs. Lets see more of that. I should note the rise of reverse mentoring—a valuable way to build relationships and engagement across age groups. As 2u cto james Kenigsberg notes, looking to junior employees as mentors helps you stay current with whats going on above and below water.
Career tracks often lead to managing people: Its the main way you make more money and earn bigger titles and more perks. But there essay are plenty of talented and dedicated people with no desire to get into the people-management business—and when youre older and really skilled at your job, why should you have to? More companies should offer a fully developed, and valued, individual contributor track. Tech companies often give engineers this option, but surely other teams need steady, knowledgeable talent with depth, not breadth. Why must an ace creative director, biz dev, or sales star also have to become a manager to get all the goodies?
Ive survived karaoke, rock climbing, and a folkloric overnight ski trip myself. There are good reasons for groups to let off steam and get better acquainted, but please, managers, make sure everyone feels comfortable about socializing in whatever way and at whatever time that you think will be so much fun. As writer and working mom mikki kendall observes, coworkers can bond over an in-office lunch or an employee picnic that welcomes families just as well, if not better, as they can over a whiskey tasting. Heres a good guideline: team social events shouldnt require physical prowess or alcoholic excess—so forget paintball and bar crawls. Done right, employee socializing leads to understanding between ages, cultures, genders, and all the rest. Done badly, corporate fun can lead to disaffected employees— or worse.
Career development, as long as youre still working, professional development shouldnt stop. In my corporate jobs ive noticed that virtually all the skill building the company pays for is geared to people starting out or wanting to climb the ladder. Career help is often tied to whats called an up or out management approach—which means you either have the wherewithal to be promoted steadily up the chain, or out you. But programs that encourage job rotation—job shadowing, shifting to another office or partner site—work for all kinds of employees, not just younger ones. Not everyone can pull up and take a six-month rotation to belo horizonte or Singapore, but you can design programs for different ages and mobility. Mentoring programs, mentoring and coaching programs are useful tools for professional development. Im also glad to see technical mentoring programs on the rise, which do the important work of helping young women and people of color get into stem roles, management training, and other specialties.
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We elders know perfectly well that our workplaces are by and large not about. We dont drive how roles, functions, advancement, and success are seen. Career development options and the hierarchical career ladders everyone is expected to climb are designed for the majority: younger workers. What can be done? There has to be a systems overhaul before the members of the over-40 crowd can quit worrying about hair dyeing or giving themselves a crash course in pop culture. Almost everyone i know over 40 tends to omit their fuller graduation year from their résumés and eliminate or streamline their past experiences. Let me suggest a few areas where the olds might get a little more tlc. Socializing, in an era when were encouraged to bring our authentic selves to work, after-hours socializing is part of the deal. For older workers (and others who arent quite a culture fit tone-deaf get-togethers can cause emotional or logistical havoc.
Not only is it the right thing to do, the thinking goes, but it also enhances business by creating a broader mix of people bringing their energies, styles, creativity, and fresh thinking to the job. And weve all seen stories of company culture gone wrong when diversity isnt prioritized. But theres one bias that doesnt get addressed much: age. The very people who might be affected by age discrimination kid often dont want to bring it up—especially in Silicon Valley. Lets face it: Few of us over 40 want to be considered old or label ourselves as outsiders. If workers do come forward, age discrimination is very hard to prove, since its often hidden by internal reorganizations, budget cuts, and employee at-will agreements. The subject of older workers can be a legal minefield for companies—to even acknowledge it is to open a pandoras box of issues.
always liked it, but its the norm. Im used. So used to it, in fact, that Im quite skeptical of legacy companies that value hierarchy and old-school protocols above all. (you know the ones: They live by weve always done it this way.) I wouldnt want to work in a place where management is close to my age without a gold-plated guarantee they share the lets try it and see outlook of younger companies. Silicon Valleys biggest companies pay karen Wickre for her advice — but at the. Help Desk, its free to you. Theres a lot of attention in the business world today on whats called diversity and inclusion. Its the idea that companies need to work harder and more persistently to attract, retain, and recognize diverse talent across the spectrum of gender, race, class, and.
She's also a media obsessive, internet lover, and art dog enthusiast. —, sign up to get Backchannel's weekly newsletter. Let the young people do it: i understood immediately. In this moment, she and I were mature stewards (shes about 15 years younger, by the way) looking across a verdant landscape of young employees. We two could share a grown-up understanding that the way forward was to give these up-and-comers every chance to learn and grow. As I recall, my reaction at the time was a mental shrug: Yep, thats how. Ive thought summary about that brief exchange a lot since—and it was in no way particular to google. Age awareness is a funny thing.
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About 15 years ago, i was inexplicably offered a job at google—at age. At the time, my age reliably put me in the running for oldest employee. Still, i was thrilled to be there and worked hard to become known as a good colleague, reliable, energetic, and a quick study. As the company grew, so did our team, and of course many new people (virtually all younger) were hired around. One day well into my tenure, i had a quick hallway chat margaret with one of the leaders of our team. As part of my job, she suggested, i should show these newbies how to do some of my everyday tasks. You know, let the young people do it, she said. Karen Wickre is Backchannel's worklife columnist who's enjoyed a long run in Silicon Valley, including at google and Twitter.