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The Future Age:
Life Reimagined
Tune into The Future Age podcast, where we explore creative solutions in reimagining what life could look like as we get older. Topics include: the future of work, transportation, 3D printed homes, aging and AI, agetech, and more.
Listen Now
The Future Age: Life Reimagined
Tune into The Future Age podcast, where we explore creative solutions in reimagining what life could look like as we get older. Topics include: the future of work, transportation, 3D printed homes, aging and AI, agetech, and more.
Listen Now

The Future of Work

Episode Summary

Retiring at 65: Is it an outdated idea? Zannat Reza talks with Lisa Taylor, author of The Talent Revolution and president of Challenge Factory, about the new era of work and aging. With our aging population and people living longer, traditional notions of retirement are quickly becoming outdated. Zannat and Lisa discuss the drivers of the future of work and how we can better use our years of expertise. They also address ageism in the workplace. They explain how ageism can cause employees to feel undervalued and unsupported, leading to a lack of engagement and productivity. Lisa & Zannat offer advice for both employers and employees, highlighting the importance of recognizing and addressing ageism in the workplace. They also discuss the benefits of creating a workforce that values diversity in all its forms, including age diversity. Lisa also provides practical tips for organizations looking to engage and retain their older workers.

Show Notes

Zannat interviews Lisa Taylor, president of Challenge Factory and author of The Talent Revolution, about the changing nature of work in relation to an aging population. They discuss how traditional retirement is becoming outdated due to people living longer, and they explore the drivers of the future of work, as well as the issue of ageism in the workplace. Lisa and Zannat offer advice to both employers and employees on recognizing and addressing ageism and creating a diverse workforce that values age diversity. Lisa also shares practical tips for organizations seeking to engage and retain their older workers. Join the conversation about the future of work and aging.

Episode Guests

Guest Image

Lisa Taylor

President, Challenge Factory

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Zannat Reza: What are your plans when you're 65? Are you going to retire, fly south for the winter? Or if you're already retired, how are you spending your days? For some of us, the concept of retiring at 65 has been ingrained in our culture, and yet, according to a recent National Institute on Aging Survey, 37% of Canadians aged 50 and older say they can't financially afford to retire.

[00:00:26] So what does this mean for those of us living into our eighties and nineties? Is retiring at 65 an outdated idea? I'm Zannat Reza. Welcome to The Future Age Podcast, where we explore creative solutions in reimagining what life could look like as we get older.

[00:00:46] My guest, Lisa Taylor, president of Challenge Factory, a certified B corporation that focuses on the future of work, thinks retiring at 65, is definitely an outdated idea. She says the retirement age of 65 was chosen as an arbitrary number, way back in the 1930s when life expectancy was 62, but now we're living another 20 to 30 years.

[00:01:08] How can we better use that time, those years of expertise, and better fund those golden years. Lisa has a few ideas. Here's part of our conversation.

[00:01:21] Lisa Taylor: As with most things that are set out in policy, it starts as an arbitrary number. Someone has to decide when benefits are going to be [00:01:30] provided, or when we're going to, you know, set a bar for eligibility for something, and then that becomes the mental mindset that we have. So, the retirement age was set in North America at 65 in the 1930s. It was done because people were literally working themselves to death, with no safety net or social security to be able to help them to fulfill the actual dictionary definition of the word to retire, which means to withdraw or to conclude. So, the retirement [00:02:00] age was set at 65 in the thirties, and life expectancy in the year that it was introduced was 62. So, it was introduced from the outset as a palliative workplace program. It was a program for people already passed life expectancy, with the assumption that not everyone would get there, but those who reached three years past life expectancy deserve some comfort to be able to withdraw and conclude.

[00:02:27] Zannat Reza: But of course, we're now living well into our eighties and the newest generation of kids will potentially live to 100 and beyond. So maybe it's time to shift our mindset and reassess our approach to life. It's not just about going to school, getting a job, retiring at 65; that's 20th century thinking. So, in your book, The Talent Revolution, you talk about several drivers that shape the future of work.

[00:02:53] Two that I'd like to explore are around demographics and career ownership. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

[00:03:01] Lisa Taylor: The next big wave of revolutionary change that was going to impact and affect everybody, whether they believed it or not, was not going to be technology driven. It was actually going to be led by our workforce and changing demographics.

[00:03:15] Aging is not just something that happens to older workers. We age our entire life. And that every single worker in your workforce, a hundred percent of your workforce, is aging. And the future for every worker that's in your workplace is represented by what's happening today, with the older workers that you have now.

[00:03:36] Zannat Reza: Lisa says that as we get older and are living longer, we still want to remain engaged and productive, which seems, you know, pretty logical. That of course, could include paid work, volunteering, being on boards, or starting a business; in other words, being part of society. The possibilities are endless for your third or fourth act.

[00:03:56] But for those who want to stay in their jobs because they want to, or because they need to for financial reasons, they frequently face age discrimination, also known as ageism. Now this type of ism is rampant and fairly socially accepted, and it affects women more than men because, of course, women are also dealing with another ism, which is sexism.

[00:04:19] So if an older person faces barriers at work, those barriers can be even more challenging for an older woman. So, ageism in the workplace can look like you're being left out of interesting projects, or you're being passed over for promotions. Lisa goes on to say that, as it stands, when an employee approaches the age of 50, many organizations start giving cues that they are ready for you to make your exit.

[00:04:43] Lisa Taylor: That happens in ways like, there's reduced opportunities for training, you're no longer eligible for high performance type programs, the frequency of career conversations, or future focus conversations starts to decline with your managers. And if we think about that timeframe, 50 to 65, that's actually a very, very long timeframe in people's careers.

[00:05:06] So we're artificially sending cues that people are finished, long before they actually hit the retirement age. That causes them to stall in their own career because there is nowhere else for them to go, and no one seems interested in helping them figure it out. So, they end up on this step of their career, and they know that it's not wildly satisfying, there's other things they could do, and their own needs have shifted.

[00:05:34] Zannat Reza: So according to Statistics Canada data, in 2022, there were fewer people over the age of 55 who were not working or looking for work. Meaning, they had left the workforce and weren't coming back. But many sectors like retail, hospitality, and manufacturing are experiencing labor shortages.

[00:05:53] So Lisa tells me one answer to this shortage could be tapping into hidden pools of talent, such as older workers, but inflexible working conditions are a big roadblock. For example, people may want to work fewer hours, or work remotely to meet caregiving commitments, [or] the fact that they're not eligible for benefits after the age of 65.

[00:06:13] So it's a tug of war; on one hand there's a labor shortage, on the other hand, workplaces aren't working as hard as they could to keep older employees and potentially use all that expertise they're turning out to pasture. So how can employers entice older workers to stay?

[00:06:29] Lisa Taylor: People work in and for organizations where they believe in what the organization is doing, they like the manager that they're working for, they feel that there's trust and courage that can be expressed between them, and they enjoy the teammates that they work with. And so, in today's remote and hybrid world, the relationships that fuel and foster workplace culture is really important.

[00:06:54] Zannat Reza: So, Lisa says there should be better communication between managers and employees to help plan for the future so that it meets both of their needs. She also shares her experience as a young manager.

[00:07:05] Lisa Taylor: Nobody is trained on how to have a future focus conversation with a 58-year-old, and yet it's so important. I would go in all gung-ho, armed with all this material, and my career conversations would be very simple. It would basically be them saying, Look Lisa, I've been here 18 years. I've had this conversation 17 times with 16 different managers. I know that I'm supposed to tell you what I want to do next, but really, all I want to do is just get through the next three years, five years, eleven years, twelve years, whatever it was until their mortgage was paid off, or their kids had graduated from university. And then they said, then, I'll worry about what I'm going to do next.

So, they were stalled in their careers despite what I was supposed to be helping them to achieve because they had a perception that they needed something else to happen before they could actually take another step in their career.

[00:08:00] Zannat Reza: So how an organization treats older workers also has an impact on younger employees. Lisa tells me something that she refers to as a broken talent escalator, something she says older workers are stalled on, and it's a phenomenon that exists in every organization.

[00:08:17] Lisa Taylor: Imagine that you are an individual and you are getting onto an escalator, and you want to get to the seventh floor. You get onto the escalator, and you start to ride up the escalator and everything's going great.

[00:08:31] However, as you approach the fifth floor, you start to notice that there's a problem. This escalator is ending at the sixth floor. There is no option for you to be able to continue on, and at the top of the landing, the top of the escalator, you see a whole bunch of people that are all there on the landing also looking for how to get to the seventh floor. So, as you get to that top step of the escalator, you actually have a choice to make. You can step off the escalator, join the rest of your colleagues that are on that landing, and hope that you actually find your way. Or, as your step disappears, underneath the floor, as you reach the top of the escalator, you can take a step back and you can ride the top step of the talent escalator as if it was a treadmill all day long.

[00:09:22] It is boring, it is not engaging. It doesn't make you feel great, but you know who you are, and it gives you a sense of comfort that at least things aren't going to change. As you ride your career on a treadmill, what you do is you cause a treadmill effect all the way down the rest of the escalator. So, every step starts to feel a bit like a treadmill until we get to the very bottom of the escalator, with the newest employees just looking to join an organization with the least amount of time on the escalator themselves. They look up the escalator, [00:10:00] they see a whole bunch of people riding treadmills and decide, you know what, I don't want to work for an organization where the culture is a whole bunch of people riding a treadmill. I'm going to do something different, or I'm not going to commit to a full-time job. And then as managers and leaders, we look at this younger generation and we say, younger workers, no loyalty, they don't understand the world of work. When really, all that they want, is they don't want to be on a treadmill. And to be really frank, neither does anybody else.

[00:10:30] Zannat Reza: As the workforce gets older and people start leaving, succession planning becomes key as it will impact the bottom line. If it's not done right, the gap in upper management will make it harder for an organization to be productive and make a profit. So what can they do?

[00:10:44] Lisa Taylor: One of the ways that organizations can take immediate action, is by recognizing that any of the diversity, equity, and inclusion groups, discussions, communications that they put out, needs to also include age diversity. And they [00:11:00] need to be looking at how age diversity plays out in the teams that they have, in how they hire, language they use in their recruitment, are they specifically being ageist when they're targeting certain roles by looking for a go-getter with high energy? Like is there, are there language that are euphemisms because they can't say, we want someone young. There's lots of questions that people end up asking me all the time, things like, you know, should I hide my experience and maybe not list [00:11:30] all of the experience that I've had over the course of my career when I'm applying for jobs? Or what do I do when they ask me, not just what education I have, but graduation dates? Graduation dates is actually the most common way that organizations that want to screen out older workers, that's how they do it.

[00:11:50] Zannat Reza: So, what are people supposed to do? How do you find an organization that's a good fit?

[00:11:55] Lisa Taylor: If your age is something that, from the outset, an organization has decided is a problem, why do you want to work there?

[00:12:03] You have such amazing talent and experience to offer, and we are in an era of labor shortages right now. So, you can become an ageism activist and fight the good fight, but if you fundamentally need a job, and you need it within the next four weeks, find the organizations that actually value and recognize the talent, the hidden talent pool of older workers.

[00:12:27] You can take a look on the website of organizations and see, you know, do they have diversity of all kinds of different backgrounds and faces, but everyone's under the age of 30 in all of those diverse faces.

[00:12:40] Zannat Reza: So, I've come across some creative ways where organizations can engage their older workers, and especially those who don't want to work five days a week. And one of those strategies is an interesting type of off ramping, where you've got someone in their sixties, they want to work maybe two days a week, and so they become part of this alumni network. So, they're able to mentor younger team members, and it allows them to still be engaged, have some meaning and purpose in their life, but also, you know, explore other interests.

[00:13:11] So what other strategies are you seeing for organizations who want to engage older workers?

[00:13:18] Lisa Taylor: So, I wish more organizations actually considered the life cycle of their employees to include a phase for alumni, of all ages. But that alumni, the extension of the employee life cycle, to not just be like, you worked here, the next day you no longer work here, and now the only way we transact with you is maybe as a customer. We need to sunset that, that's an outdated way of thinking about our workforce. And so, you know, you've hit on really one of the most powerful ways that organizations can start to think about how to have a workforce that's geared to our own longevity, through the alumni programs.

[00:13:56] Zannat Reza: BMW, for example, started the senior expert program where retired employees passed on their knowledge to younger colleagues. And then through their reverse mentoring program, older adults gained new knowledge from their younger counterparts. So really, it's win-win for all ages.

[00:14:14] Lisa Taylor: I think the other way that you can really help your older workers is by having good regular career conversations with them.

[00:14:24] So not stopping the career conversations that you would regularly have with employees that are in their twenties and thirties, as they get into their forties and fifties. Continuing to help them figure out what are my skills, what are my needs, what are my talents? And where are there things in the marketplace, whether that's inside of your company, or in other places in the world that you want to start to be applying your talents to.

[00:14:50] So in general, frontline managers are not really well trained on having career conversations to begin with, and there are great resources that exist to help. Just to structure, how would I have a career conversation with someone who's older than me? A lot of times the managers are younger than the employees.

[00:15:08] Managers feel a little bit of imposter syndrome, or like they're going to be called out of not knowing what they're talking about. Having a career conversation, a future focus career conversation, with employees increases retention by 70%. It is the cheapest, fastest way to engage your employees of all ages, and have them thinking about what they want to do next so that in the case of older workers, you can start to shape that together.

[00:15:36] Zannat: So, it sounds like training managers to have these conversations is key, and no matter what age a person is, smart organizations will recognize that 65 is just a number, and older employees are worth investing in. For example, giving them opportunities to learn new skills. And that's the focus of CVS Health's, Talent is Ageless program, which includes a series of training modules where older employees can learn new skills and apply them to their work. So open communication can help organizations retain that wealth of knowledge and experience. And here's what's interesting. Age diverse teams are more creative and productive, than teams that are not.

[00:16:15] And generally speaking, because older workers don't switch jobs as often, it means a more stable workforce. But how do they make sure that older people add to the diversity and productivity of their organization? So, with five generations in the workforce, the path forward needs to be figured out sooner rather than later.

[00:16:33] We're talking to all our guests and we're looking at the future. Finish this sentence in 10 words or less. The future of aging should be

[00:16:47] Lisa Taylor: Inclusive of people of all ages, not just focused on those we've decided are old or aged.

[00:16:56] Zannat Reza: So, let's time travel to when you're a hundred. Lisa Taylor, you're a hundred years old, what does your ideal life look like?

[00:17:04] Lisa Taylor: My ideal life looks, actually a lot like my life right now, where I continue to maintain relationships with people who are both my age. When I'm a hundred, maybe not those that are significantly older than me, we'll see how longevity plays out by the time it's my turn to turn a hundred, but that I've cultivated a really good group of friends and connections, that are at least 15 years younger than me so that I'm not alone. I continue to learn, and I'm a part of a community.

[00:17:36] Zannat Reza: Thanks, Lisa. It's been a pleasure chatting with you.

[00:17:41] Thanks for joining us for this episode. To learn more and for transcripts, go to the future Listen to new episodes by following us wherever you get your podcasts. And if you're liking our podcast, leave a review on Apple or Spotify, and be sure to share it with your friends, family, and colleague.

[00:17:59] The Future Age is brought to you by SE Health, a not-for-profit social enterprise, whose purpose is to bring hope and happiness to the lives of Canadians. It's produced by the Future of Aging team and Podium podcast company. For more information, visit the future