Hello and welcome.

This blog is to update you on the Value Age project (and post any musings I have around olderworkers). We’ll be building a website but until then this is our online presence.

I’m Philip, I’m 58 and live in London in the UK. I’m an Information Professional and those skills, along with a viseral loathing of the Evil that is Ageism, led me to found Value Age.

The latest research (out of Sweden) shows that Age Discrimination kicks in around 40. This is crazy. It’s bad for individuals, it’s bad for business, and it’s bad for economies.

Whatever the reason for it — hiring ‘sameism’, conscious or unconscious bias — Ageism has to stop. We believe that by making employers aware of the VALUE olderworkers represent through their skills and experience, Ageism in a work sense will wither and die.

Through a step process of Awareness | Information | Change , we plan to promote olderworkers to businesses and organisations and effectively sell their worth.

So watch this space … You can connect with me on LinkedIn and follow us on Twitter @Value_Age …

 

 

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A Gig Economy for Olderworkers.

The classic saying goes ‘Get on your bike and find work’. Well times have changed. The gig economy has literally spun this around to ‘Find work and get on your bike’. Of course that doesn’t mean the gig economy is only about bicycle couriers, but it gives a graphic illustration as to how much it has disrupted the traditional model of employment.

We don’t know what the far future of work will look like, there’s lots of talk and angst around the potential impact of Robots and Artificial Intelligence, but in the near term the gig economy is here to stay, growing and assuming some dominance. We as olderworkers therefore need to address this phenomena. How do we make it work for us?

To make it work we need to bring about change. Any benefit for olderworkers requires lots of change. In its broadest sense we need to bring an end to Ageism. That’s a big task. Society, Business, even ourselves would need to undergo a paradigm mind-shift. That’s not going to happen overnight. And waiting for that is not helpful for olderworkers right now. We need something immediately — we need to create our own segment of the gig economy.

What we need is infrastructure. That’s how the world runs. Nothing works in isolation. I’ve been thinking of 3 core components for such an infrastructure:

>A Place to Work.
>Support Services you need for Work.
>The Opportunity for Work.

This order is not hierarchical. So I can see a logic for putting Opportunity first. Indeed Opportunity is everything. It’s access to your marketplace and your potential customers. Opportunity will rarely come knocking at your door, and unless you have unique and highly saleable skills and an ace list of prospective clients, you’ll need some way of accessing that Opportunity.

I’m going to illustrate these 3 core components by way of real world examples. I hasten to add that I have not discussed this infrastructure model with any of the parties concerned. Nothing I say represents their views. I do though believe that combined in such a fashion they could bring about substantial positive change for olderworkers.

The whole idea I’m outlining here came about after I learned, just a few days ago, of the creation of a new Trades Union for the Self-Employed here in the UK. (Everything I write in this blog entry is UK-centric, but I see no reason why it could not be replicated in other domains). This new Trades Union is a co-venture of ‘Community’, and ‘IndyCube’.

It occurred to me that everything it was planning to offer Self-Employed workers in general (ie addressing the issue of late payments), would be germane for olderworkers pushed into freelancing as a result of Ageism. There’s no other organisation batting for them like that.

Dealing with all the problematic housekeeping stuff could be a real shock for those emerging from a corporate cloister. Such support could be the difference between success and failure.

In my mind this was rapidly becoming a piece in a potentially very interesting jigsaw puzzle. And then as an added bonus I discovered that IndyCube ran physical co-working spaces and a virtual network of freelancers and independents. Another piece!

Two other components now readily occurred to me: RetirementWorks, ‘a virtual marketplace that allows retired professionals to sell their experience to the younger generation’ — currently a work-in-progress on Kickstarter. This was the access to Opportunity piece.

The next piece was a person, Tim Drake, whose new book ‘Generation Cherry’ — a guide to work after Retirement or Redundancy — I was reading (I’ll be reviewing on my blog shortly). What Tim was saying, both on a business and a personal level, I found immensely helpful. That was another crucial Support piece.

If we could only integrate all of these elements, creating an affiliate infrastructure …

>A Place to Work — could be flexible managed spaces with access to a network of potential work partners.

>Support Services you need for Work — could be a Trade Union for the Self-Employed with all the membership benefits that would entail; and a coaching programme (along the lines of Generation Cherry) equipping olderworkers with the mindset to succeed.

>The Opportunity for Work — could be a work / worker matching jobsite where olderworkers were the focus.

… Damn it! The pieces are all there already! Bit of joined up thinking and we could create the very infrastructure olderworkers need …

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Community are @communityunion on Twitter and community-tu.org on the web.

IndyCube is @indycube on Twitter and indycube.community on the web.

RetirementWorks are @retirementworks on Twitter and retirementworks.co.uk on the web.

Tim Drake is @thedraketeam on Twitter and timdrake.co.uk on the web.

A Little Something on the Side.

Let’s get real here, Ageism means at some point in your life you are going to be judged as being effectively unemployable. You will still be you, with all your skills and experience, but someone will see you as a threat (because that’s the basis of Ageism), and they will block you. Equality and Anti-Discrimination Laws will not come to your rescue. You are now labelled ‘Old’.

So what to do? Cry? Get angry? Write a letter to the local newspaper? Tweet? (Old folks do know tech). Well probably all those things, none of which will make any difference.

No. What you need to do is think about Ageism when you are still (moderately) young. You need to prep for it. You need a ‘Side Project’.

Classically, Side Projects were what band members did if they wanted to make a solo album. Now it’s your time to think solo.

There will be no Deliveroo for olderworkers in the much vaunted gig economy. You’re pretty much on your own. So the idea of a Side Project is not for you to say ‘I like to bake, I’ll set up as a cup cake maker’ (because that market is pretty crowded), but for you to apply yourself to something (it may be a cause, as I chose), which may or may not be related to your daytime job, and take to it the mindset of an entrepreneur. 

Chances are there will be zero opportunity for you to continue doing whatever job you are doing right now later in life. If you work for a corporate that role may not even exist outside of that environment. And if it does, it’s probably only doable if you have a corporate structure behind you. A Side Project has to stand alone.

Developing the skills to make a Side Project work will stand you in good stead. You’ll have ultimate responsibility; you’ll need to manage resources (keep these needs as close to zero as possible); and you’ll need to network outside of your present comfort zone. Basically, you will be re-energising yourself. 

Because whatever you do after you reach the Age of Unemployability, you’ll need energy to survive. You may persue your Side Project and make a living from it, you may not, but at least you’ll have made a decent start on thinking about life after your job. 

Here’s a link to a great article if you want to learn more (and that’s always a good idea).

https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2016/05/a-guide-to-personal-side-projects/

Rock of Ages.

Pretty much all education systems are based on Experience being passed down from Age. School pupils are not taught by teachers younger than themselves; University undergrads are not taught by lecturers younger than themselves.

So if you disrupted this model what would happen? Well I don’t think anyone has tried it so I can’t say. It will probably never be usurped in formal education. But Ageism threatens it in a business setting.

I used to train graduate intakes for a large corporate, and I’ve managed many Knowledge programs within firms. They still rely on the Experience from Age format (the delivery platform makes no difference — e-learning does not alter the fundamental premis).

But if Ageism (Age Discrimination) in the workplace erodes the numbers of olderworkers (remembering now that’s anyone 40+; 30+ in tech!), where does that Experience come from? What is there to teach?

I fear business becoming communes entirely populated by younger workers. Of course they won’t all be the same age, but their Experience will be limited and therefore so will be the Knowledge they can pass on. Knowledge with a limited Experience base is devalued. It tends to become a conceptual talking shop. It does not aid productivity.

Younger workers and olderworkers should have a symbiotic relationship. Intergenerational Learning does indeed work both ways. Take away one of those partners and you have a big problem.

Ageism has the potential to be far more destructive than it first appears.

Ageism: A Modern History Lesson.

Forty years ago when I was growing up there was no such thing as an olderworker. Closest you got was ‘nearing retirement’. Senior (ie longstanding workers) were typically ‘Master’ of x, y or z — like my best friend’s Dad who was a Master Carpenter (passing on those skills lecturing at the local Technical College). There were no twentysomething managers.

We were taught to respect old people, simply because they were old. It had nothing to do with their status. My maternal grandmother (who I only recall as a wrinkly old woman), still achieved, and demanded that reverence despite famously boasting that she’d never worked (as an employee) a single day in her entire life.

But I guess mostly respect was given because these people had faught in a war. In some cases, two. I was born only 14 years after the end of WW2, it was still part of who we were, even during the rebellious sixties. My Father had been one of the original Desert Rats in North Africa as a Tank Commander, and was a D-Day Veteran. It was something I could touch. #Respect.

Few of that generation actually got to enjoy a well earned retirement (it was still a real thing back then). Most only lived a few years into it before ending their days at the brutal hands of one of the two big death sentences: Heart Attack, or Cancer. You simply didn’t survive either as so many do today.

Society changed. It does that. Thatcher first destroyed the Trade Unions and then deregulated Financial Services. (Silicon Valley take note, that is ‘disruption’, not building an app). Industries, careers, lives were brushed aside. Respect faded as people scrambled over uncollected refuge bags (bin collection strikes always being in the heat of the Summer, adding to the ambiance) — the old comfortable structures had gone.

And I guess that’s where Ageism started. In my lifetime. In the struggle for survival (and the 1970s were one hell of a struggle, be under no illusion) — where you believed you needed to discriminate against threat. Discrediting a large proportion of the working population gave you a better chance.

For the moment Ageism is here to stay. No doubt I’ll be gone long before it is, unless we undergo a seismic change. And never forget that does happen. Nothing stays the same.

Speak Truth to Power.

Having already blogged about the subject recently (‘The Digital Divide’, 3rd August), I wasn’t expecting to revisit the issue so soon. However, I came across yet another example of ‘Digital Natives’ which I felt I must challenge.

It was used in writing by a board member of one of the world’s leading sportswear manufacturers. I asked, rather cheekily, if that meant his company was ageist. He was, unsurprisingly, somewhat taken aback. I needed to explain the negative connotation of the term. In fairness he had not realised this (danger of using words you don’t understand), and readily offered to refrain from it’s use in the future. Brilliant! One little victory.

I have no doubt that the company is not ageist and had no ill intent. This is why I am not naming and shaming them.

It’s a good reminder though that words have meanings and where we think they are inappropriate we should confront their user.

The fight against Ageism, in all it’s forms, should never sleep!

Angry Birds.

When I decided to start this blog, I vowed to write every weekday. And I have and I will. It’s good discipline. I had a subject lined up for today but I’m putting that on hold.

Reason? Because yesterday something really annoyed me. (As well as the story of Lego removing their 61 year old UK head for a younger model). Someone who I don’t know and have never had dealings with did their best on social media in a few tweets to undermine my self confidence and the work of Value Age. They are an intelligent person, in the olderworkers field. I make no comment on them nor their work. I can only assume though that the intent was deliberate.

I did not rise to the bait. I have asked them to explain themselves. I await developments.

This is so disappointing, on both a professional and a human scale. I’m also bemused as to how someone can pour cold water on a project that hasn’t even launched yet, so they can’t know our full capability. They also didn’t check their facts — we’re not a charity.

So there it is. I’m sure we’ve all had similar experiences. Thanks for all your support. Keep doing all your good works.

Take care. Play nice.

#CharterAgainstAgeism.

Thinking about a campaign to get employers to show their opposition to Age Discrimination. Something for them to sign up to. Brings together two of our core statements:

“Ageism is as dangerous and as damaging as Racism and Sexism and we pledge to do all we can to defeat it.


For our employees we acknowledge that every olderworker deserves to have their experience respected, their value recognised, and to be assessed without reference to their age”.

Thoughts anyone?

A Note to Young Grads.

After all these years (Class of 1988), I still get a buzz out of seeing letters after my name. I guess it could just be nostalgia for my college days, but I think it’s more. I have a great respect for the Bachelor’s degree. It’s been criticised in recent years for being too easy to get, as non traditional academic fields of study are offered, but I don’t see that. I see the degree in whatever subject as being a life achievement. You have to go through a lot to get it.

Obtaining the necessary grades at school, securing the offer of a place, sorting finances — all before you even start. Then (usually) living away from home, looking after yourself (doing your own laundry!), making friends (some for life) … and don’t forget the studying. It’s not easy. I know. But at the end, if you get through, it’s amazing. Then you are out into the big wide world, but that’s another story.

You will though, quite reasonably, expect your achievement to be recognised and valued. Well guess what? That doesn’t change as you get older.

A graduate olderworker will also have done all that stuff. And they’ll have gone to work thousands of times as well. And they will have encountered a huge variety of people and situations and problems and developed the skills needed to deal with all that, successfully.

So when you encounter an olderworker, judge them on their merit, on their experience, not their age; judge them how you would like to be judged.

Stereotyping.

(Note: I wrote this before the present Google memo debacle, but it usefully puts stereotypes in centre frame).

How old is old?

For people in their 20s old probably begins around 40. For me (I’m 58) I see age as being in the 70s 80s and 90s. As with all things age is relative whether it’s in the eye of the beholder or perceived from the outside.

So how helpful is broad categorisation, as in the stereotype of older person? What does a 40 year old have in common with a 60YO? Or a 60 with an 80? Could be lots, could be nothing. The danger is that stereotypes are based on assumptions and lead to assumption driven actions. So the individual is lost and the effectiveness of whatever it is you are saying or doing gets pitched at an average which may not exist.

I’m so guilty of this. I use Millennial and Olderworker as though their meaning was set in stone. I apologise. But do I have a choice?

Stereotypes are not the product of laziness, they are a social convention of convenience. And unless you want to spend all your time deconstructing everything, you have to accept that they are here to stay. Just try to use them wisely.