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Organisations ill-prepared for future workforce ‘longevity’, says Gratton


Longer life expectancy of workers is one of the most important issues organisations will face in future, but they are not ready for it, London Business School professor Lynda Gratton said yesterday.

“One-third of our children will live to 100-years-old,” she said. “That will make a huge difference in how we think about careers. Longevity will be one of the most important issues we face. It will affect everyone and organisations are extremely ill-prepared.”

Gratton, who this year received a lifetime achievement award from HR Most Influential, was speaking on a panel debating the future of work at the Thinkers50 event in London. Thinkers50 is a ranking of the world’s best management thinkers.

Also on the panel were Harvard Business School’s Amy Edmondson, author Tammy Erickson and Stew Friedman, a professor at Wharton School of Business.

Gratton also expressed concern that the future generation of workers were not being educated well enough to take highly skilled jobs.

“Work has been hollowed out,” she said. “Many of the jobs which were the first rungs on the ladder no longer exist. If children aren’t being educated to a high level of skill, it’s not clear to me what jobs they will do.”

However, others on the panel took a more positive view.

Erickson, who writes about generational differences, said it was irrelevant to think about preparing children for today’s world of work, because the world would be very different when they entered the workplace. “Do we need to prepare them for our world or theirs?” she asked.

The purpose of work

Since people now spend more time at work than ever before and technology is blurring the boundaries between work and non-work, the panel agreed that the ‘purpose’ of work had become more important.

“People want an authentic life at work and to serve a purpose beyond immediate financial gain,” said Friedman.

“People need purpose,” added Edmondson, as she urged organisations to invest in their staff. “It takes courage and leadership to invest in people. It’s not about companies taking care of people, but saying [to employees]: ‘We are going to build something together as a team that will hopefully last a long-time’.”