Tag Archives: age

What influences your job preferences?

woman_interviewing_stick_figure_1600_wht_12429According to research by OPP it comes down to age and personality.

Older workers are different from younger ones preferring jobs with role clarity with an emphasis on loyalty and independence.

They also prefer to work where everyone knows each other, is from a variety of backgrounds, and is treated as individuals with unique skills.

They are less comfortable in insecure jobs even though there might be opportunities for high pay. This might reflect family responsibilities or concerns about affording retirement.

In terms of personality factors emotional stability, rule consciousness, and self-reliance, increase with age but factors like liveliness, abstractedness, apprehension, and tension decrease.

These findings were reported by Gulko and Deakin in a report “Age and Work Characteristics: The role of Personality” at the British Psychological Society conference in Brighton.

The authors said that given the ageing workforce this knowledge  “can help employees with (the) attraction, selection, and retention of employees”.


Fellow psychologist Malcolm Starkey has directed me to some research at the University of Antwerp described on his OPPC blog.

This looks at generation differences in relation to motivation and finds that older workers are not less motivated – just motivated by different things.

Golden Skirts don’t necessarily add Midas touch

David Cameron has been taking advice about Norway’s 40% quota of women on boards.There is a campaign to get the UK up to 25% by 2015.

Someone has even started a 30% club to improve on that figure.

So the general impression is that this is a good thing. Cameron says there is overwhelming evidence that having women on boards is good for business.

The government has also said that if companies won’t do it voluntarily the government might have to impose a quota.

That’s what happened in Norway after the 2003 legislation failed to achieve its target – moving from 9% to 40% – by 2005. So on January 1st 2006 publicly listed companies were given two years to comply or be dissolved.

So is there “overwhelming evidence” that it’s a good thing? Unfortunately researchers at the Ross School at the University of Michigan found that having the 40% quota negatively affected companies. They also believe the same thing would happen in the USA and the UK as they have similar systems of governance. Amy Dittmar, associate professor of finance, says “boards are chosen in order to increase shareholder wealth. Placing restrictions on the composition of boards will reduce value”.

First the stock price dropped by almost 3% following the introduction of the new law and 5% for those companies with no women on the board at the time. A measure of the firm’s corporate governance used to determine a company’s value, Tobin’s Q ratio, dropped 18% where companies had to increase the number of women by 10% or more.

One of the researchers, assistant professor of finance Kenneth Ahern, said that their findings support the view that board structure affects value. “Firms that were required to make the most drastic changes to their boards also suffered the largest negative returns. …constraining the selection of board members has a large negative impact on value”

Ahern and colleague Amy Dittmar point out that this is not because of the gender of the new board members but because of their lack of experience and young age. The constraint imposed by the 40% quota led firms to recruit women board members that were younger and with different career experiences. Dittmar says “when firms were free to choose directors before the rule they tended to choose women who were similar to men directors”. Recent research suggests women perform less well than men in competitive situations so could that have a bearing on it as well?

With a large demand and a small supply firms were forced to select directors they wouldn’t otherwise have chosen. And one newspaper report said that one women had ended up on 14 different boards.

Perhaps this research should give everyone a pause for thought. What’s good for diversity is not necessarily good for the company’s performance.  I’m sure women want to be in top jobs on merit and with more women than men graduating you might think it’s only a matter of time before we see more of them up there and the number of women on boards has increased lately in the UK.

However the number of women in senior management positions seems to have dropped – to around 20% globally, according to the Grant Thornton International Business Report. And in privately held businesses the number with no women at all in senior management has increased to 38%. Recent UK research shows that women managers are more critical of  organisations so does that influence women in deciding whether or not to go for promotion?

Whatever the reason with fewer women in senior management how will they provide succession at board level?

And should we really be worrying about gender imbalance. Don’t shareholders want the best person for the job irrespective of gender?

FYI the country with the most women in senior management positions is Thailand (which also has most female CEOs with 30%), followed by Georgia, Russia, Hong Kong and the Philippines. Not what you might have expected? But probably no surprise to find India, Japan and the UAE have less than 10% of women in senior management.

Update March 2013

In contrast to the US research a study of the French blue-chip CAC Index found that companies with at least a third of females in management positions had a 30% higher return than others over the last 6 years.

Professor of the management of human resources at Geneva University, Michel Ferrary, found that the CAC 40 had lost 35% of its value between since 2007 but the 10 companies which employed at least 35% of women managers (dubbed the Femina Index)  lost only 5% of their value.

The 10 companies in the Femina Index included Axa, Accor, Danone, and L’Oreal. Ferrary said that these companies were; “less discriminatory, drew their employees from a wider pool, and were more in tune with consumers.”  More diversity seemed to improve decision-making (see also:  Teams & Diversity).

The French government requires companies to have 40% women directors by 2017 but not one of the CAC 40 companies has a female CEO.



No country for grey-haired men

No country for grey-haired men In America it seems more and more men are seeking hair colouring since the recession.

Men of a certain age are trying to retain just enough grey hair to look distinguished but not so much that they look over the hill in the job stakes.

Over the last 10 years the number of men colouring their hair has doubled to 6% overall but risen to 10% for the  over 50s. Sales of DIY hair colouring have risen by the same amount.

First impressions are obviously … Read More

via EI 4u with permission

Working with an Ageing Workforce

Many companies with an ageing workforce worry about declining productivity.

3 years ago BMW did something about it. They set up a programme which has been so successful it is now being rolled out in Germany, Austria, and the USA.

BMW realised that the average age of workers would rise from 39 to 47 by 2017 (that doesn’t seem that old to me but then I like the definition of middle age being someone older than me). Because older workers tend to have longer periods of sickness and need to work harder to maintain their output, BMW worried that this would undermine their strategy of enhancing competitiveness through technological leadership and productivity improvements.

Of course this is a trend all across the developed world. Comparing over-65s now with 2020 shows that in the USA that group will grow from 12.5% to 16.6%, in Japan from 17.1% to 26.2%, and in Germany from 16.4% to 21.6%. In the UK the figures are 18% rising to just under 20%. Another  concern is that healthcare is three times as expensive for over 65s than for 30 – 50 year-olds.

In the past older workers were either dismissed or forced into early retirement but this was not an option for a company like BMW which prides itself on being a dependable employer – vital in a world where employee engagement is at an all-time low. This is also bad for the country. Past waves of early retirements has increased the numbers of retired workers leaving fewer people in the workforce supporting retirement costs.

Moving older employees to less physically demanding jobs is also not an option if there are no younger workers coming in to replace them, and in many countries this would also be seen as discriminatory.

So BMW chose a production line as a pilot and staffed it with a year 2017 mix of workers ie with an average age of 47. Then the foremen, supported by senior managers and technical experts, developed changes to improve productivity including managing health care, enhancing workers skills and the working environment, introducing part-time policies and change-management processes.

Initially there was resistance to the “pensioners’ line”: from the younger members of that team (42 people) who thought they would suffer a drop in productivity because of the older workers, and from older workers elsewhere in the factory who thought they might become less productive if they were moved from their comfort zone to the new line.

Even the foremen were worried that BMW might reduce work-speed rates and dumb down the IT systems to accommodate perceived deficiencies of older workers (See “Old doesn’t mean Stupid“). So they referred the project to the Workers Council who in turn referred them back to an earlier study that identified a basic framework for change on 5 dimensions. These were: health management, skills, the workplace environment, retirement policies, and change processes. (I’m not sure why they didn’t know this before they started the pilot programme).

They used a standardised questionnaire, the Work Ability Index (WAI), to assess the fit between a worker’s ability and the demands of the job. They found that whilst productivity  decreased on average there were wide variations with some workers suffering a steep decline whilst others remained fully productive. The foreman explained that the pilot line was not a soft option and also appealed to the workers’ pride, telling them that their experience was needed to secure the future of the plant and save jobs.

In the end 20 of the 42 workers stayed on the line and they recruited 22 more with a promise they could return to their old jobs after a year. So in 2007 the line was finally staffed with an age mix reflecting the projected 2017 demographics. They piggy-backed it onto a health initiative and introduced a self-diagnostic tool that awarded positive points for good habits like regular exercise and negative points for bad habits like smoking or being overweight. They also asked the workers about their aches and pains and what they could do to improve things.

To facilitate this they also simplified communications. Rather than using the old “continuous improvement” paperwork, people wrote ideas on postcards and stuck them on a notice board. These ideas were then allocated points by the team so they could be prioritised and the managers and foreman didn’t intervene in this process  – it was bottom up and this increased buy-in from the workers.

After the introduction of a wooden floor – which dramatically decreased aches and pains – sceptics were won over and the workers took charge assisted by an ergonomists, a safety officer, and process engineers. Most of the work however was done by the workers themselves, often in their own time. In addition to the wooden floor they introduced special footwear, seating, flexible magnifying lenses, and adjustable height tables which reduced back strain.

They also changed work practices. Work was categorised and, depending on how physically demanding it was, was time-limited for each worker and job rotation was also introduced to balance the load on the workers’ bodies. And a physiotherapist developed stretching and strengthening exercises for them to do each day.

The end results? £40,000 of investment including workshops and expert input produced a 7% productivity improvement in one year, the same as achieved by other lines with younger workers.The target output was increased from 440 gearboxes per shift in 2007 to 500 per shift in 2008 and to 530 in early 2009. 4 workers were re-assigned but no-one wanted to leave.

They achieved a 10 defects per million quality target within 3 months and currently the target is zero defects.

Sickness related absenteeism in 2008 was the highest in the plant at 7% but typical of that age range but has since dropped to 2% which is below the plant average.

BMW now promote this 2017 line as their model for productivity and quality. Perhaps management took a risk letting the production managers experiment and allowing line workers to create the solutions. But it paid off for them and may be the answer in a world where the demographic time bomb is really ticking.

Source: HBR March 2010