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Realizing the value of gray hair/ no hair

I admit my bias upfront. I fit into this demographic.

It’s always interesting to listen to the many different perspectives of management about the demographics of today’s workplace. The “baby boomers”, “generation X”, “the millennial” …there are plenty of labels and plenty of theories about how to manage and extract value from all of us. I’d like to share a little of my experience.

I’ve had the pleasure of developing and working with some great teams over my professional career and I don’t say that lightly. Some I inherited and others I designed. Upon reflection, diversity was always an ingredient in some form or another. I will admit that in the beginning, this wasn’t by design, but as I developed as a leader and my experience became broader, I did make diversity a strategic component of my teams.

Diversity comes in many forms, but here I would like to comment on age and tenure.

Lately, I have seen some companies strategically divest themselves of long tenured talent in favor of new and often younger executives. I stop short of suggesting discrimination, but I do question the strategy.

Tenure can be associated with the word “stale”. Top executives looking to ignite change in a business, are tempted to believe that because one has spent long periods of time in a specific business, that they are not “worldly” enough to bring in the new ideas and change needed to stimulate growth. I understand that perspective and at times that may be true. But equally, bringing in large amounts of external talent in lieu of cultivating the experiences, relationships and business specific knowledge that comes with tenured people can be equally damaging.

I’ve had good success building strong, diverse, talented teams. I encourage leaders to spend the time to properly assess the value of long tenured executives and be sure they are truly not equipped to bring about the change needed if given the right direction. And if that assessment reveals that a new spark is needed to catalyze change, then consider the value of a balanced organization. I argue that we should considered long-time employees as assets…ones that are not easily replaced. Some of my best teams mixed the energy and perspective of “new” with the wisdom and experience of “old”.

Let me end with an edit to an age-old proverb: “Be careful not to throw the value out with the bath water”!

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