When middle managers reach maturity and the associated remuneration levels, they become vulnerable to being made redundant. As a general rule at this stage of their career these managers are less mobile, a little less ambitious and possibly a little jaded – having seen “action” in various and numerous battles along the lines. Your 25 budget round or re-organisation #12 aren’t quite as exciting as they used to be.
As companies strive to create a younger, more affordable and possibly more agile workforce, the obvious solution is to cut this tier. I think there is a better way. Instead of letting a massive amount of experience just drift away let’s aim for more age diversity. Whilst it is true that individual performance will decline with age in the work place the sum of all individuals’ efforts is what counts. Can we harness the superior experience of the older manager and overcome the hurdles which can be caused by the fact that people relate easier to others of their own age group with whom they share common experiences? I am convinced it is possible and benefits the individual and the organisation.
Let’s assume for a minute that our ageing middle manager (Joe) is willing to step aside in terms of career progression and line management duties, opening the path for the next generation. The kids are likely out of school or even university by now and the mortgage is not the challenge it once was. Let’s therefore envisage that Joe is happy to scale down his hours and his pay. Like a non-commissioned officer (i.e. the Staff Sergeant) in the army, who knows everything about how the company operates, who develops people, even young officers on their way through the ranks, Joe could be playing a vital part in knowledge transfer, coaching, and mentoring. The company saves money, the young talents develop faster, and the dignity of the retiree is maintained throughout.
I once “retired” a colleague who was 72 years old. We took it easy – I gave him a year. He helped find his successor and trained her. She took her place in the management group early, sitting alongside him, benefiting greatly from this experience and from her mentor’s guidance. When everything was handed over, we send him off with a great party. Throughout this year, he was the voice of reason in the team, where the average age was 30 something. Win-win.
My final point is this: any workforce where the majority of people is from the same age group puts the organisation at risk, irrespective of whether they are all older or all younger. A company dominated by older professionals will become stale whilst a purely young profile removes the opportunity for generational mentoring.