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Have it – Have it not

December 16, 2009

“Of all European countries, the Netherlands’ the one with the smallest group of still actively participating older employees.” It was discouraging to hear former state secretary Rick van der Ploeg say this on Kamerbreed (Dutch political radio show).

Oddly enough it also gave me some comfort. For it was nice to hear some else say: “Something has got to give.”

He continued that employers and (prospective) older employees need to change their outlook and mentality. For presently we are splitting up able older workers into two groups: those who have work and fear losing it and those who lost their jobs and fear they’ll never work again.

A Red crusade and a Black book

Van der Ploeg was commenting on broadcast snippets of the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) chairwoman, Mariette Hamer. The political party had a congress past Saturday, December 12.

There Hamer held a sort of a pep talk. With the sole intention of cranking up the crowd into believing that the Dutch Labour Party was out there, in the front ranks, taking care of the older employee.

I listened to her disclosing a new strategy. A red crusade across the country, where the party meets the employer and employee on the floor. The purpose is to ensure that older employees are working under the best circumstances.

Employers, who fail to provide their employees with good working conditions, are listed in a black book. These cases will then serve as references in drafting new legislation.

Give me something I can believe in

Pardon me. A Red crusade?! A Black book?! How is blacklisting an employer going to help old job hunters like myself and others get hired? And on top of that, we’ve got to wait for a translation into legislation? Please. This is just namby-pamby campaign talk.

I need something more substantive than this. Van der Ploeg’s ‘change in mentality and outlook’ appeals to me more. And I believe it comes down to a few things:

#1 – Age conscious career planning lifelong learning programs. What it means to retire at an older age has still not yet sunk in. Employers need to learn to apply age conscious career planning. And older employees need to learn to embrace lifelong learning programs and develop new digital skills.

This is something I’ve been advocating for a while now in pieces like Use it or lose it, Life is worth learning, Tell tale poker face, and Old wine — new bottles. Both parties need to drop ageism and the constrictions it brings with it.

#2 – Collective labour agreement. Concerning the collective agreement, Van der Ploeg mentioned the Swedish model as a possible sollution. Here pay-increase isn’t linked to age.

I back him up on this. Providing it’s executed fairly. Meaning that you receive a marketable pay in accordance to your knowledge, experience, tasks and responsibilities in a specific job role. In other words, a position-related pay. And this is regardless of age.

#3 – Self-destructive. Most importantly both parties must be confronted now with their actions. For it’s very self-destructive. When an employer keeps ignoring the (older) potentials out there, in the end he’ll lose out. It’s bad for business.

The same goes for the older employee, who feels he’s learnt enough and therefore refuses to embark on a lifelong learning program. He’s effacing himself.

We need a change of attitude. And the time is now.

#4 – Coercion. There’s nothing beyond the power of gentle coercion to resolve a situation like this. Either by legislation or setting up a reward system. Alike the change of attitude, we need this now. We’ve been muddling on for far too long.

#5 – Set an example. And as with most cases, the government must set a good example. Better their own policy for the elder employee. They themselves should take on older workers. And encourage their current older staff to enrol into lifelong learning programs. Instead of quietly pushing them into meaningless job-roles, where they can ‘rest and wait’ in the shadows until it’s time to shove off.

So… it’s simple

We all know something has got to give. What are we waiting for?

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