Neil Patrick of 40 Plus Career Guru talks Flexible Working
Here at Flexiworkforce we aim to connect with the key thought leaders on workplace trends. Today, we spoke with Neil Patrick, the creator and editor of the popular blog 40pluscareerguru. Neil’s blog has quickly gained prominence as a one of the key online commentaries about career issues, particularly for mature professionals. Here’re our questions and his answers.
What is your background and why did you begin writing your blog, 40pluscareerguru.com?
I spent the first 20 years of my career in banking and finance. I initially worked for international banks, but later became a founding director of three fast growth financial businesses. Two were very successful. One was not. So I’ve gained a diverse experience of business within both large corporations and small entrepreneurial businesses. And critically of both success and failure.
More recently, I have transitioned from being an employee to a self-employed consultant. I also became fascinated by how the transformation of the employment landscape has passed most professionals by. Old ideas about our how we should manage our careers have been swept away by transformations in media, recruitment and the world of work. And the vast majority of people have been blissfully unaware of this.
Our jobs are so critical to our lives that I felt this subject demanded attention. It seemed that few people were paying attention to the perfect storm that had arisen through the collision of the digital age, global recession, globalisation and ageism. No-one seemed to have connected these dots and understood the big picture.
Particularly I noticed that my own peers, typically mature and accomplished professionals were virtually completely unaware of these changes. They had become incredibly vulnerable without really appreciating why or what to do about it.
These were the reasons I set up 40pluscareerguru. I wanted to inform people about these changes and what they needed to do to protect their futures. It’s a labour of love, but a mission that I feel is vital.
In your opinion, what are the main benefits that 40 plus employees bring to the multi-generational workforce?
I have written numerous posts about this subject. One of them is here and in it I set out the top 10 things which I think older employees have to offer.
One of the key strengths of older workers is that they are not on a mission to be the next big thing. They just want to do a good job. This brings a totally different attitude. They’ve seen success and failure so many times, that although they cannot easily show these things on their CVs, this life experience brings huge value to the teams they work with.
What do you see as the career priorities of over 40 employees?
The over 40s are in the second half of their working lives. But they are in a far worse condition financially than their parents. The recession has wrecked their balance sheets at a stage of life when previously they would be heading towards a comfortable retirement.
In 2008 and the subsequent years, the professional middle classes in the US and Europe were struck by a tsunami so huge that it has devastated their personal assets.
Property asset values tumbled, investments had billions wiped off, pension plans shrivelled, savings interest rarely even matched inflation. All the while, living costs and particularly food and energy bills rose and rose. Hardly anyone in the professional classes became wealthier between 2008 and today.
In the words of one of my key collaborators, John Tarnoff in California:
There are many statistics available, but the most striking number to me is this one: 80 percent of us have saved less than $100,000 for our retirement. Given the economics of the last five years, and the prospects ahead of us, what this means is that the Boomers are going to have to keep working – and the problem there is that neither we nor society at large are prepared for us to remain in the work force.
Few are able to look forward to a comfortable retirement when they reach 65 unless they drastically revaluate what they are going to do to keep the money coming in.
To what extent does ageism remain an issue in the UK workforce? What could be done to improve this and enhance the prospects of over 40s?
There’s very little data available to quantify this issue. Worse, it’s too easy for employers to sidestep their legal obligations regarding ageism. Ageism is not just a workplace issue, it’s a societal one.
However there is some data which is instructive. According to the European Social Survey in 2011, a major piece of research carried out across 28 countries, nearly two out of five Britons claim they have been ignored or patronised because of ageist views. Only in Russia, Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are the figures worse.
One third of Britons think those over 70 are a burden on health services. Two out of five people in the UK say they have been shown a lack of respect because of their age. In the UK, youth is thought to end at 35 compared with people in Greece who said it ended at 52.
In the UK, 64% of people thought age discrimination is a ‘very serious or quite serious problem.’ Only in France, where the figure is 68%, did more people express concern.
The figures also reveal that in the UK, 41% of people thought that people aged 70 or over contributed little to the economy and in addition 36% thought that people over 70 were a burden on healthcare services.
According to the report, there were fears surrounding age discrimination in the workplace with around half of Britons interviewed who are aged over 50 saying they were concerned about employers showing preference to people in the their 20s.
In my view, ageism is that last of the ‘isms’ to become socially unacceptable. Only when it is taken as seriously as sexism and racism can we expect to see any significant improvement.
What is your opinion of the UK government’s recent changes to the right to request flexible working? Do you believe that the changes are a step in the right direction or are you of the view that more needs to be done to promote more progressive attitudes to working?
I think the new rules should be welcomed. But I expect little to change very quickly. Some enlightened employers have already embraced these new practices ahead of the legal requirement to do so and mostly their reports are positive.
Many more I think will drag their heels out of complacency and fear of the unknown. But gradually over time, I think flexible working arrangements will become more and more accepted as the norm and 10 or 15 years from now, we’ll look back at the 9-5 mentality as being archaic.
And personally I can’t wait for the day when I can get into my car at 8am and expect to be able to drive more than a couple of miles!
We’d like to thank Neil for his time and the insights he has shared with us. You can follow his blog here. He’s also on Twitter @Newcareerguru.
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