The Grey Matters Network – promoting the value of the mature employee in the workforce

We caught up with Tony Devine from The Grey Matters Network, to see how they go about advocating for the mature members of the workforce.

Your workplace should accurately reflect the makeup of society and your customers. We’re talking across all spectrums here – race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, socio-economic background and education. Of course, a diverse workforce makes economic sense, and this is also true for age diversity. Age-related misconceptions or myths have evolved over the centuries. The first point to make is that never before have we lived as long. In Ireland, we are adding 2.5 years per decade. In the last century, we have added 30 years to life expectancy. Our perspective on age must change to reflect these new realities. This is where The Grey Matters Network can help.

What’s your background? How did you and your co-founders get to founding The Grey Matters Network?

There are three principals involved as partners in The Grey Matters Network. We each had long and successful 35 year plus careers. Two of us, myself and Mick Furlong had met initially when doing an MBA at UCD Business School and had worked together for many years also. At the end of 2014, we had both arrived at a point where we were finishing up with our current long-term careers and both of us felt that we had significant experience and personal development that we could leverage in the workforce for many more years to come. Our individual challenge was that our own network was limited so we agreed to leverage each other’s connections. We invited Declan Hughes to join us with his background in the SME space.  The Grey Matters Network Consultancy DAC’ in July 2015.

What area of Diversity and Inclusion does The Grey Matters Network advocate for?

The Grey Matters Network promotes the value of the mature and experienced employees in the workforce

Why do you think the older generation often gets left out of the conversation around Diversity and Inclusion in the workforce?

The term ‘Age is the new frontier of Diversity’ is often used these days in recognition of the fact that other areas of D&I have got more attention. I’m sure there is no one reason for this, I have a number of theories, some companies are unconfortable employing the older generation because of disproven sterotypes such as their ability, social norms, an assumption that ‘they’re alright, they’ve had their careers’. Of course many older workers have a financial need to continue earning while others have a mental need to continue to have purpose.

Apart from their experience what benefits do employers get by employing someone who is part of the older generation?

First of all, at The Grey Matters Network we don’t emphasise age or its pseudonyms. Our business name is a fun way to ambiguously point to the wisdom inherent in maturity. We place emphasis on the value of experience. That value can be delivered whether the individual is employed on a full-time permanent basis or in a shorter-term assignment-based engagement. This Provides a perspective which is relevant to their generation, very often this reflects the organisation’s customers. The intergenerational workplace is the workplace of the future. The older (50+) worker is the only growing cohort in the workforce. In Ireland over 50’s population will increase by 15% in the next 5 years The mature employee can typically hit the ground running. It’s proven the older workers has a reputation for being reliable and steady. We are a known entity; our brand and reputation have been built over many years. As we mature, in general, our ability to relate to others improves, we also have the tendency to stay longer in ours jobs.

What are some of the most common misconceptions employers have when employing someone who is older?

Age related misconceptions or myths have evolved over the centuries. The first point to make is that never before have we lived as long. In Ireland we are adding 2.5 years per decade, in the last century we have added 30 years to life expectancy. So, our perspective on age must change to reflect these new realities. It’s also what you mean when you say age theres Chronological Age, BIO Age, or Social Age all of these can be different depending on each person. It’s also costlier and less efficient sterotypes like we get slower with age nad older [ople and technology don’t mix. All of which has been disprove. One of the biggest misconceptions are unconicious bias with older people themselves “Will I fit in: Less willing to learn. I need a flexible work arrangement” can all be barriers we put in our own minds to applying to jobs.

What are some of your favourite case studies or success stories from the first few years of The Grey Matters Network?

We have some fantastic case studies on our website. Some of our favourites are Fenergo, CAE Parc Aviation,  SISK, Cully Automation, Folens Publishing  – can we add in the link to our to our case studies link on our website or LinkedIn Page.

What are your goals for 2021 with The Grey Matters Network?

Financially our goal is to double the size of our business. To do this we will need to increase the market for where older workers fit best. We don’t fit neatly into the general recruitment area. Through a combination of factors, the older worker is better suited to contract engagements rather than full time permanent positions.

The pandemic has hit the older generation particularly hard. How have your users coped with the changes in the workforce?

Our observation is that older workers have adapted well to the constraints we now live under. By nature, we are more conservative and less likely to be in situations where we are exposed to large gatherings. Older workers will have been some of the first to embrace the opportunity that remote working offered and thus have been well positioned from the outset of the new way of working. I would go as far as to say the new way of working is better for older workers and has encouraged them to stay longer in the workforce or re-enter.

What are some of the positive and negative effects on the older generation of the new ways of working? Particularly for those working from home?

There is data to indicate that older workers have benefited from the new way of working brought on by the pandemic. More people are staying longer in the job than before. Practical benefits are the same as they are for every generational cohort, commuting time saved and time is a more valuable commodity the older you are. There is also the physical comfort and security of working from home.   The downside is the loss of physical social contact, perhaps harder on some older workers than others.  

Are there any other companies in Ireland that your admire in this area?

The Public Service is generally open to older workers and by law does not discriminate on age. There is an increasing number of companies who are now encouraging older employees. Those I have had recent interactions with include; Pramerica, Accenture, Standard Life, AIB, Bank of Ireland, Contracting Plus, CAE Parc Aviation Plus 30 other companies who attended our November 2019 Intergenerational Workplace event.

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