Early 16th century: from French vétéran or Latin veteranus, from vetus ‘old’.
This word was used to describe ‘older workers’ recently. It was intended to reflect depth of experience, but my interpretation of the word evoked an entirely different reaction.
‘Older Workers’ is the classification used for people between the ages of 50-64. (DWP Older Workers and the Workplace Feb 2017). We make up a third of the workforce. We don’t like being called old, and we certainly don’t like being told we’re too old to work.
It stereotypes us and creates the conditions for unconscious bias to breed. Unconscious bias is everywhere, and in our case, the biased are making some pretty big assumptions. Apparently, we’re too slow, we can’t learn new things, we have problems retaining information, we can’t embrace technology. The problem is that we base our assumptions on the person we see in front of us. The face may look lived in, but don’t judge an album by its cover. When you look at our lived-in faces, please see the life we have lived.
We are Generation X and we have got something to say to you.
“I won’t sit down, I won’t shut up”. Frank Turner
We come from the Punk era. We dared to be bold. Our generation helped to reshape music, fashion, society, still iconic 40 years on.
The UK punk scene was controversial, and ‘in your face’. It dared to speak up for the working classes. It caused disruption, and it definitely shocked. We were the were the ‘agent provocateurs’ Not mainstream. Proud to stand out from the crowd.
As we morphed into adult life we carried that same passion. We rose in our respective careers, we worked hard to achieve great things. The fire is still there. Don’t extinguish the flame by filing us in the drawer marked ‘older worker’.
What if we are not that stereotype? What if we are an organisation’s greatest asset?
- See our loyalty
- See our belief that working hard is the norm.
- We’re the most experienced we’ve ever been.
- We’ve made the mistakes. We’ve learned the lessons from them.
- We have wisdom that we can share. We can start new fires.
“Darlin’ you got to let me know, should I stay or should I go? If you say that you are mine, I’ll be there ‘til the end of time”. The Clash.
Don’t assume we are unreliable because we have health issues, or we have caring responsibilities. Well this may be true for some, but younger people with families have just as much to juggle. Hell, a lot of us have realised the errors of our misspent youth and are now actually looking after ourselves a whole lot better.
Others worry that we are going to retire at the drop of a hat. Those that can afford to have already gone. If we’re still here, it’s because we want to be. Show us some loyalty and we will reward it with our own.
“If the kids are united, they will never be divided” Sham 69
We’ve long stopped fighting, and we’re not picking a fight with the kids, far from it. We value what we can learn from the younger workforce, many of us are parents who want opportunities to be equal for our offspring’s generation. Young people are hungry to learn and we have lots of experience to impart. Don’t let our wisdom slip through your fingers. Young people are eager to chase their rainbows they come to you, then they leave you. They are the new disruptors, they are starting their own personal fires. Our fires were for the collective, our fires were for everyone not just ourselves.
Employment wise, there is a huge supply and demand issue. Businesses won’t see sufficient young people leaving school, college and university to fill jobs. Declining birth rates are resulting in fewer young people entering the workforce. So far, the shortfall has been made up by migrant workers. In the shadow of Brexit, will this be as easy to achieve? Any business who is letting their older talent go in place of a younger workforce might be playing a risky hand.
“Rip it up and start again, rip it up and start again
I hope to God you’re not as dumb as you make out
I hope to God, I hope to God”
Orange Juice (post punk)
It’s time for a new revolution. Rip up the blueprint and start again. The conveyor belt system of ‘Go to school, get a job, retire’ is over. We should be cogs turning together, some fast, some slow. Some steady, some erratic. Sometimes connecting, sometimes apart. Flexible working, entrepreneurship, stable and steady. There’s a need for us all.
Don’t ignore us, don’t give up on us. We are Generation X and we’ve got life left in us yet!