Exploring the talent and potential of an older workforce – EVAA Bologna

Posted by & filed under Allgemein, European Voices for Active Ageing (EVAA), World Café Europe - EVAA Bologna, World Café Europe in general.

Who better to ask about the specific recommendations for an increasingly ageing European workforce than the employees and entrepreneurs aged 50+ themselves?  Such a dialogue on the changing nature und understanding of work for Europeans aged 50+ was one of six Thematic Cafés held as part of the European Voices for Active Ageing project.

World Café Europe’s partner in Italy was AIP2 Italy, an organization dedicated to fostering the use of participation in Italian society. It is also the Italian regional organization for the worldwide organization IAP2 -the International Association for Public Participation.


Bologna Café (c) World Café Europe

The Thematic Café entitled „Work after 50“ brought almost 100 participants from Italy and throughout Europe to Bologna (Italy). The purpose of the dialogue  was „To explore what change is necessary within organizations in order to tap into the talent and potential of adults aged 50+„. The participants of the EVAA Bologna dialogue reflected the workforce age profile described in a recent report by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions „Employment Trends and Policies for Older Workers in the Recesssion“. 58% of the participants were in the age group 50-65 years of age and 24% were aged 66-75. This provided  an ideal mix older workers of to mutually reflect upon the issues affecting the ageing workforce and offer recommendations about how to create an age-friendly workplace. The post-dialogue project evaluation confirmed that 58% of the EVAA Bologna participants thought that diversity  – not only of age but sex, ethnicity, sector and EU country –  enriched the conversations. 47% othe participants were very or extremely motivated to further engage with the topic of  „Work after 50“.

Three stated goals were formulated for the EVAA Bologna Thematic Cafè

  1. To create a consciousness among older adults that they have a key role to play in order to change the image of adults aged 50+ in the workplace
  2. To find solutions within the current societal milieu to recognize the value of adults aged 50+ in the workplace
  3. To envision a future generation of age-friendly companies which embrace and utilize the potential of adults aged 50+ in the workplace

This Thematic Café was designed to foster a collective inquiry and reflection on these areas of focus. In the case of EVAA Bologna, the design took the form of a Swarm Intelligence Café . This kind of World Café design utilizes a a special mix of harvesting and dialogue which enables a group to collectively identify issues of complex topic (such as an ageing workforce) and recommends approaches to address these issues innovatively.

What did the dialogues reveal?

Created a consciousness among older adults that they have a key role to play in order to change the image of adults aged 50+ in the workplace

The harvesting results confirm that the participants of the dialogues developed a deeper understanding of the potential of older adults in the workplace. They recognize that older adults are an important (and mostly un-tapped) resource of knowledge about the field in which they work. This resource includes not only hard facts and knowledge but also the ability to use soft skills effectively to achieve desirable results.  Ensuring the transfer of this knowledge to others – especially to the younger generations of workers  – is a key element of this process. However to take on this new role, older workers need to be offered new challenges and learning opportunities by their employers.  This requires that older workers obtain the new skills which are needed for an effective knowledge transfer. This centers around the older worker’s ability to communicate, mentor and coach others. This implies that employers need to consider and invest in new opportunities for life-long learning for their older employees. This includes (but is not limited to) fostering older adult leadership, coaching and mentoring capacity, teaching ability, and cross-sectoral teamwork.

Rosa Smiling with talking stick

Sharing wisdom – Photo (c) Lorenzo Pondrelli

Found solutions within the current societal milieu to recognize the value of adults aged 50+ in the workplace

The recommendations from the participants of the EVAA Bologna Thematic Café are numerous and specific.  Older adults experience the challenges of an ageing workforce on a daily basis.  While specific recommendations differ due to sector and job responsibilities, a consensus of what needs to be done emerged among the participants.  (Please note: Only an overview of these ideas can be made here; an article which will present the specific recommendations is currently in planning.)

From the perspective of the EVAA Bologna participants, the role of older adults in the workplace needs to be fundamentally re-considered in light of the current demographic realities. This poses new challenges for employers both in the corporate and public sectors. How do these employers create age-friendly organizational cultures which are not just imposed by national and EU-legislation but is experienced in all facets of the business on a daily basis? This re-thinking of the workplace will require a new work structures which  addresses both the issues of an ageing workforce (such as BMW’s age-friendly factories). New ways need to be explored to pro-actively deal with intergenerational issues which acknowledge the experience of older workers as well as prepare them to take on a new role as leader, mentor and/or  coach.


Ready to collect ideas from the EVAA Bologna participants – Photo (c) World Café Europe

Envisioned a future generation of age-friendly companies which embrace and utilize the potential of adults aged 50+ in the workplace

The EVAA Bologna participants recognized that the creation of age-friendly companies is embedded in a larger societal attitude towards ageing.  Ageism exists not only in today’s society; it is reflected throughout the workplace as well. Ageism needs to be fought by changing attitudes about the role of older adults in the workplace. This poses a necessary balance between employer and employee. Managers are asked to create more age-friendly companies and proactively work to combat ageism in the workplace. Employees on the other hand, are encouraged to maintain and/or develop a healthy self-esteem of their own potential and as members of teams in the workplace. The participants of  the EVAA Bologna dialogue see a special roles for government on a regional, national and EU level to develop innovative policies which encourage and reward employeers to hire  workers aged 50+.

The EVAA Bologna dialogue provided a rich forum for adults aged 50+ to start envisioning  which steps will be required to create age-friendly workplaces. Through the dialogue with each other, the participants mapped an initial landscape of the issues to consider. This plethora of ideas and recommendations  provide a rich foundation to build upon to uncover new solutions for an older – but vibrant – workforce in the 21st century.

Bologna Hands-Up!

Innovation from adults aged 50+ – Photo (c) Lorenzo Pondrelli

The energy and creativity of the Thematic Café on „Work After 50“ confirms that the answers for this challenge are waiting to be discovered and voiced.  Holding more participatory dialogues  like the  EVAA Bologna are needed. These dialogues will provide a forum  for an exchange of experience and ideas by those who are most affected by the demographic shift.  The first step is to create opportunities for active participation in order to create this future workplace. Such a process will embrace the potential of  adults aged 50+  as one of numerous generations which can make invaluable contributions towards the realization of a truly age-friendly workplace.

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