Longevity is quickly becoming the new hot topic. And while some may consider it merely a trend, the goal of creating a longevity mindset in the workplace is here to stay. Larger, forward-thinking companies may soon appoint a high-level executive to integrate the idea of a longevity mindset across all business functions–or add the responsibility to an existing executive position.
In 2016, a UC Berkeley study estimated that roughly half of those born today in the developed world would live past 100. Countries worldwide report increased longevity and decreased birth rates, a reality that will continue for decades.
People are living longer. They need and want to experience longevity in the workplace as well. That doesn’t mean staying in the same job for 30-plus years, as some may have done before. Instead, it requires the acknowledgment that the workplace is constantly changing. Leaders must consider what’s next and commit to continually reshaping their organizational principles to stay ahead of the game. Those who seek gainful employment must do the same.
The workplace is experiencing a cultural transition. Instead of a retire by 60 ideology, there is the reality of a 60- to 80-year work life. Employees have higher expectations from employers, whether it be a gap year for every five years of employment, the opportunity to retrain in a completely different field or to continue working up to any age without fear of aging out or mandatory retirement. As a result, employers must reconsider every aspect of talent management strategy to attract and retain key talent.
Longevity impacts everyone. As a mindset practice, longevity shares the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) goal of creating equity by eradicating age bias, stereotyping and discrimination across the age spectrum. Longevity requires a new approach to employee attraction, development and retention. A longevity mindset also takes a longer view of the benefits needed to support an aging employee base, including financial planning, continual training, retaining and education and ongoing health and wellness in mind, body and spirit.
The idea of longevity is more appealing than ageism, which has infested workplaces by exploiting younger people with low pay and long hours, dismissing older workers and barring the recruitment of anyone over 50. Engaging employees in a longevity mindset will decrease the frequency of ageism by default. People will learn that a long, healthy and engaged life is the norm, not the exception.
Furthermore, a longevity mindset can potentially increase the recruitment and retention of all-aged employees. Health and wellness programs will help keep minds and bodies of all ages engaged. Financial education will enable employees to actively design a savings and investment portfolio to support a 100-year life.
Who should be responsible for such an undertaking? John Mellkvist, senior consultant and expert on ageism with Kreab in Stockholm, Sweden, believes a Chief Longevity Officer (CLO) could help spread career opportunities more evenly throughout one’s work life.
“Today’s map of life is too cramped in early midlife, when careers are supposed to bloom and when many employees experience a peak of family responsibilities,” Mellkvist said. “This leads to a huge waste of talent and creates intense stress for young and old who fear career time limits. A CLO will bring new insights and perspectives and help restructure the talent management process, so opportunities are spread more evenly over longer periods of time.”
According to Ee Ke Chew, principle consultant in Singapore with Lead Human Centred Development, a CLO could also drive a new paradigm for career design.
“One of the areas I’m most interested to explore supporting longevity is the area of job redesign. If we look into a skills-based redesign of job roles. It might shift the paradigm of traditional experience-based compensation structure into a different management model where age may be less of a consideration.”
In the U.S., Tahitia Timmons is chief lead at Conscious By Us, a training consultancy that frames DEI outcomes in the context of health and wellness.
“Creating the role of Chief Longevity Officer is a great idea, and I can certainly see the usefulness of having a focused and strategic approach to DEI efforts and framing it through the health and longevity lens,” said Timmons. As a certified DEI professional and trained nurse, she believes longevity science is a given and that more corporate resources are being devoted to it (or should be).
“Many organizations tend to have a semi-performative approach to DEI, focused on short-time objectives, usually around the number of DEI trainings or an increase in diversity per year,” she added. “Few have long-term outcomes like tracking retention and promotion of diverse people over five to 10 years, employee satisfaction related to inclusion, and health measures discreetly tied to initiatives.”
Moreover, DEI leaders are not discussing age and aging in the workplace. They’re not talking to other leaders about changing demographics and the need to attract, develop, train, retrain, and retain an all-aged workforce. They’re not talking about a 60-year work life and the necessity for making onboarding, offboarding and (re)onboarding a norm and not the exception.
In Zurich, Switzerland, Dr. Doris Baumann is a researcher and scientific advisor on living and aging well. She is particularly keen on the idea of companies creating a CLO role.
“The name alone could make people aware of today’s reality of longer life and the unprecedented opportunities that come with it. Such as creating conditions where all people, regardless of age, can develop, grow, realize their potential and be at their best. The key, of course, will be creating a positive aging culture.”
The CLO will also usher in a new paradigm around benefits.
“Companies have been trending away from benefits related to long-term employment since the 80s when we saw a shift in the private sector from employer pensions, usually based on years of service, to employee-contributed 401Ks,” said Timmons. “Having a position that strategically offers a mix of benefits that reflect both short-term and long-term incentives would make for a more stable workforce. This would be particularly helpful in high-skill, competitive fields and markets, like tech, health, private education and transportation.”
It’s more than talent management
Attracting, developing and retaining talent is a requisite for a longevity mindset. But attention to the shifting demographics also has the potential to impact every aspect of every business, including the development of products and services to meet the need of an increasingly aging population– i.e., the longevity economy.
One of the leading advocates helping organizations get their heads around longevity is Jean C. Accius, Ph.D., senior vice-president of Global Thought Leadership and International Affairs at AARP.
“I think the idea of a CLO is a fascinating concept and every company should be developing and executing a longevity strategy,” Accius said. “Longevity strategy should also consider the global longevity economy ($45 trillion in 2020 with a projected increase to $118 trillion by 2050) and the amount of money companies are leaving on the table.”
The role of a Chief Longevity Officer
There are several reasons why companies are weighing the benefits of a longevity mindset and the need for a CLO to administer it. It increases access to talent, drives retention through increased engagement and contributes to increased productivity driving revenues and saving in turnover costs and absenteeism.
Hugo Alexandre Ferreira is a medical doctor with a Ph.D. in physics and a Master of Science in Engineering. As an associate professor at the University of Lisbon in Portugal, Ferreira is a longevity researcher who has spent a lot of time contemplating what it would take to eradicate age bias and stereotyping from the workplace.
Ferreira agrees the longevity role should include responsibilities for identifying and supporting business and investment opportunities in the longevity market. “A CLO should provide deep market insights across all age ranges and stages of life while also ensuring suitable internal and external communication and promotion strategies.”
He also includes responsibilities for overseeing the definition and implementation of the strategies, policies and procedures for promoting longevity and performance of the workforce. “Professional training, health management and financial planning across all age ranges and stages of life should be strategically planned and executed.”
Like other executive positions, the CLO has a pivotal role in organizational change, working together with other C-suite levels, such as the CEO, COO, CMO, CHRO and others.
“The benefit is providing a comprehensive view on the challenges and potential solutions of a longer living workforce and society,” said Ferreira. “Such a professional needs to navigate such disparate, but intertwined matters, as education and training, technology, health, finance and human behavior. Thus, a CLO supports the organization in defining and implementing strategies for promoting long-term well-being and participation as active members in the organization and society.”
Dr. Baumann believes a major function of a CLO is promoting age-positivity. This is critically important when, in some industries, people fear aging out as early as 40. Some strategies that Baumann outlines would go a long way in promoting an age-positive culture. For example, helping people learn to focus more on individual characteristics such as attitudes, motivation, abilities and performance and less on chronological age. Doing so suggests continuous learning, strengths-based development and adapting practices to the new reality of longer and healthier lives.
Not without pushback
“The first companies to adopt a CLO will need to be progressive enough to pioneer it and big enough to comfortably repackage it, should the function not meet the expectations,” said Millkvist, who imagines large tech companies and tech-inspired ones being the first to embrace and CLO.
But for most companies, creating a new executive role to foster a longevity-focused work culture may give pause.
“Do we really need another chief-level title?” asked Timmons. “Organizations that might benefit from this role may not create it because they feel they are already too top-heavy or cannot justify the expense.”
Grace Perez agrees.
“I am finding many chief roles are not necessarily the real chiefs. What we need is all ages supporting each other to create an environment where diversity of thought, class, origin, color, race, age, orientation–and all the other things that make us human–are valued,” said the executive. Perez is a vice-president who leads business transformation for GE Healthcare, a global medical technology company headquartered in Chicago.
“Not to mention, Chief Diversity Officer and Chief People Engagement roles already have high burnout rates,” added Timmons. “Would this be the next one to quickly feel overloaded? Would this role be primarily occupied by marginalized people and if so, would it be undervalued and not truly supported? After all, it’s hard to accomplish anything if you don’t have decision-making power or real buy-in.”
Then there’s handling possible overlap with other functions.
“I worry that creating a CLO position that works with the CDO might create unintended consequences and potential turf issues,” Accius added. “The bigger picture might get lost.”
The overlap may be off-putting to some organizations that may opt to add the longevity workload to existing positions. Although Timmons sees a cross-over between the CLO, the CHRO and the CDO, she considers the three roles approaching employee engagement differently.
In Washington, D.C., Bradley Schurman is skeptical. “To think about longevity as life-long, businesses need to consider their customers from cradle to grave and workers from hiring to retiring. I don’t think a single organization in the world is set up for that right now.”
Schurman, is the author of The Super Age: Decoding Our Demographic Destiny and the founder and CEO of the strategic foresight and inclusive design firm, The Super Age. Despite his hesitation on creating a CLO role, he does believe the way forward is “through the lens of longevity and demographic change, which is causing labor markets to tighten and consumer segmentation to shift.”
The question is how to move forward.
Strategic options for approaching longevity
“Organizations should employ longevity and demographic experts across all business units, including strategy, innovation, product and service development, marketing and communications,” said Schurman. “This will help ensure that age inclusion is considered in all business functions.”
Accius agrees that longevity is broad enough to cuts across all functions in an organization. His strategic concept allows organizations to start where they are, using what they already have in place.
“The responsibility around longevity strategy might be better suited to a Chief Strategy Officer (CSO),” said Accius. “Since many companies already have a CSO, it wouldn’t come across as creating something new. Second, the fact that companies have a CSO might be a good way to initially get buy-in and traction on the need for a longevity strategy across the enterprise and might seem like a lower lift for companies to implement.”
In London, Dr. Jonathan Ashong-Lamptey works tirelessly to increase workplace inclusion. While he believes the idea of an individual longevity mindset is attractive and should be encouraged, he cautions that clarification is in order. For starters, organizations need to reconsider their organizing principles and everyone will need to understand that career longevity is not the same as job longevity.
“Career longevity is inevitable with longer life spans, five generations in the workplace and support for an all-aged employee base. That said, the role of a CLO is ambiguous by our current standards,” said Ashong-Lamptey, who added that over the next decade, thousands of jobs will be eliminated, new industries will be born and many organizations won’t make it.
“There is the task of making people understand the full meaning and practical use of longevity expertise in the workplace,” Millkvist agreed. “Many people still associate longevity with older people’s issues, but the implications are so much wider. The shift is more about redesigning the individual and societal beliefs and expectations about longevity and how that impacts the job market, welfare systems and our lives.”
Fostering retention and engagement
“Aging does not begin at some point in life, but is a lifelong process that allows people to lay the foundations for aging well throughout their lives,” said Baumann. Companies that understand this concept can apply it to create a workplace that benefits individuals and organizations alike.
“Growing labor shortages and a volatile job market, combined with healthier and longer life spans, make managing longevity a key challenge,” said Mellkvist. “Conversely, companies addressing this will attract all-aged talent looking for dynamic, healthy careers sprinkled with opportunities along the way, including middle-aged career shifters who may need to step away or want to take on a new career path.”
Employee engagement surveys show that many employees leave their jobs because they do not feel fairly compensated. According to Timmons, that indicates people feel undervalued or lack purpose and opportunities to grow with the company.
“Recognizing the impact organizations have on their employees’ health and future and treating the employer/employee relationship as an evolving, growth-oriented, long-term relationship might be the shift needed to foster retention and engagement,” said Timmons. “The CLO could be well positioned to do that.”
Ashong-Lamptey sums it up with reference to Greek mythology.
“The Protean career is named after Proteus, a shape-shifting mythical god. It implies agility, is favored by side hustlers and digital nomads and requires individuals to take more control over their careers. This suggests that organizations have less control over people’s careers, making me think that a CLO would work effectively as someone whose influence is not confined within an organization.”
Deficiency of know-how slows down business enterprise method automation benefits
Walmart positive aspects from prices, digital progress
Competitive Gains Major Precedence Amid Little Organization Proprietors