The labour market will have to adapt to an older working population and companies must become more attractive to workers from a whole range of generations. Qualified people over 50 who have skills and experience are looking for ways to apply for freelance positions. Senior people should position themselves as mentors and collaborators. They offer key soft skills companies are looking for.
Françoise Gri is chairwoman of Viadeo’s board of directors. Viadeo is a leading French professional social network with over 65m members worldwide and 10m in France. Ms Gri is ranked by US magazine Fortune as one of the world’s 50 most powerful businesswomen. She has written two publications: “Plaidoyer pour un emploi responsable” and “Womenpower, femme et patron”.
With more people working into their later years, what is your view on the current labour market situation in France for older people?
We are currently at a very important crossroads in France. France has always been inadequate in the employment of older people; in the past it has been 17 points behind other highly developed countries in terms of its employment rate of people aged over 55. In the last few years, we have improved our employment rate for this age group by 10 points, which is huge. People now understand that their pensions will not be what they were expecting and will not improve in the future. As a result, they are staying in their jobs for longer. Some are fine with that, but others are worried because they realise that everything is changing in the work place. Tomorrow's skills are clearly not the same as today's and they may be disconnected from what is required.
Will this change the French labour market dramatically over the next ten years?
Of course it will. Currently only a very small proportion of the population over 60 is in employment, but because of pension constraints people will have to work longer and accept different kinds of jobs. This is already the case in many labour markets worldwide, but not in France. It is rare to see people over the age of 60 working in areas such as retail, but the labour market will have to change.
What areas of employment are most frequently sought by people aged 50+ and 60+?
Qualified people over 60 with skills and experience are too expensive to be rehired full-time and are looking for ways to apply for freelance positions. Some 28% of our members on our freelance platform are over 50 years old, compared with 15% who are members of the whole network. Often, those who are connected to social networks are much more proactive in looking for freelance work. Platforms such as Viadeo help to position their experience and skills in a different way. If Viadeo can support them to showcase how their experience can help mentor others, their access to the labour market can really change.
What skills and attributes do employers value the most from older workers?
Soft skills are very important. Two-thirds of jobs that are not filled are due to companies not finding the soft skills that they are looking for. Senior people often have an advantage in this area, but they need to play the game and position themselves as mentors and collaborators. There is a lot they can do in this area.
Do you think that companies are adapting their work environments or working conditions to accommodate older workers? If so, how?
Companies need to work on the multi-generational experience of employees and, in turn, their multi-diversity policies. Helping people to overcome generational differences is very important. Frustrations can arise over small issues such as being on time and attitudes at meetings. Often young people are digitally connected at meetings and for some senior people this can appear disrespectful. The concept of respect often lies at the centre of many issues.
Do you think that the standard of technological literacy amongst older workers is high? Are older workers keen to avoid employment in technological roles?
Many older people who are in technological roles are experts in this area. Some of them have gone through considerable changes in the last few years. There is a significant proportion of older people who are absolutely able to continue working with technology. The barrier tends to be more pronounced for people in white-collar roles. They are often disconnected from technological changes. However, when it comes to digital skills and age, there are many stereotypes. We are extremely superficial in the way we assess these skills. There are a lot of senior people who are quite comfortable with digital tools.