50: Dodging The Chop

When a number of potential clients start mentioning the same subject then it might be the time to address the issue in this blog. The subject is a feeling that there is a pervasive ageist attitude amongst employers and younger colleagues and as a consequence people approaching or past 50 years old feel vulnerable and fearful that they will be made redundant.

Here are some thoughts about why this might be the case and some suggestions on how to reduce or eliminate your vulnerability. If you are not even close to 50, you might want to continue to read because that day will surely come and as we know, anticipation is a key component of this game.

Business guru Peter Drucker said the following: “…because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business has two - and only two - basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are just costs. Marketing is the distinguishing unique function of the business”

If you think of yourself as a business in this context and the customer and your employer then, I would suggest that there are some useful lessons to draw from this quote.

  1. Ensure that the results that you produce are significantly more valuable that the cost of employing you. It is easy for employers to find new employees who can do you job cheaper but can they achieve results that have the same value ( or nearly the same value) as you can. Perception can sometimes play a part here and a senior executive rarely if ever criticised for cutting cost. Influence the value perception of the decision makers.

  2. Market yourself effectively. Beyond the last point of marketing yourself internally, ensure that you build your reputation outside your firm. Be known for what you do and that you do it very well. A word of caution. This needs to be done is a modest and subtle way. No one likes obvious and unsubstantiated self promotion. It is good to be in demand.

  3. Continue to Innovate. Building your skills, studying for qualifications and seeking out stretch experience will increase you ability to add value to your business. Don’t get stale or hide in your comfort zone. The game will pass you by.

  4. Move ahead, not behind. As part of innovation, adapt to the new reality as it unfolds and stay just ahead of where things are going. Intelligently observe the impact that changes in technology, regulations, geo-politics, demographics and climate change are having on the business model of the industry you are in. See how the leaders of you business are shifting their business model to react and anticipate these changes. Having read the situation decided when it is time to move on your terms. Don’t wait to be on the end of that conversation. Not long ago Asia equity sales teams where ten or so strong. They are now down to one or two. You can choose not be part of that story.

Those are my thoughts but I realise that this is a big subject and I would really welcome any comments that you might have on what I have said or missed out.

Stephen Wright