In this week's blog: As longevity increases, people will spend more years working. Navigating a lengthier, more complex career path requires more than money. Here's why a good salary is no longer the only asset that's valuable to employees:

What kind of assets do people want, so they can support a good life?

coin-65What kind of assets do people want, so they can support a good life?

Traditionally, most people focus primarily on generating financial assets.

We want good pay, a decent pension, and to be home owners.

And companies reward their workers financially too.

All being well, their salaries allow staff to pay their expenses (and in some cases accumulate wealth), buy a house, support their families and eventually retire in comfort and dignity.

But financial assets are no longer enough to support a good life.

In today’s day and age, workers need another type of asset…..

A class of asset which has nothing to do with money…

And you, their employer, can provide it for them.

I’m talking about intangible assets.

These are the skills and resources that will help people survive and thrive when they live longer than ever before – perhaps as much as 100 years.

I’ll go into more detail about these assets in just a second, but first, let me explain why they are becoming more important.

When people assumed they would live to 65, 75 or 80, rather than possibly 100, their lifespan tended to be divisible into three distinct phases - education, career, and retirement.

They would spend most of the middle phase, which generally lasted around 40 years, at a small number of companies, getting successive promotions and earning a living.

As longevity increases, that middle work phase might last 50 years or even more.

And people’s careers are following a more circuitous path.

Instead of working for two or three companies, they may work for 7, 8 or even 10.

They might stop work for a while to take another degree in their 40s or 50s…

workplace-peopleSwitch careers altogether…

Go on sabbatical to refresh themselves…

Transition into part-time work (and then back again….) when they have children, or elderly parents to support…

Start their own business...

And in some cases, never retire at all.

Navigating that complex career path takes more than money. Workers also need what Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, authors of The 100-Year Life, call “intangible assets”.

These include:

  • Productive assets - The skills, knowledge, reputation and professional networks an individual needs to find interesting work over several decades.

  • Vitality assets – Mental and physical well-being, a good work-life balance, and supportive relationships that allow people approaching the traditional age of retirement to continue to work.

  • Transformational assets - The self-knowledge and diverse networks that help your staff go through personal changes and transitions.

Take 49-year-old Greg, for example.

He earns a good living as an IT technician.

But he has been in the workforce since his early 20s… and may well want to work for another 25 or even 30 years.

The skills he learned when he graduated university are a little rusty. He is scared he is falling behind his younger colleagues, the digital natives. And sometimes, work has begun to feel stale and boring. He’s been doing it for so long already….

IT was always his passion, but he needs a change of direction. He’s just not sure what his professional options are…

Greg could really use help brushing up on his original IT skills to bring them up to date. But it should probably be an ongoing programme of learning, because the knowledge he gains today will be out of date again within a few years.

He could also benefit from some variety in his job. He could be given new tasks or his employer could help transfer his skills to other areas.

And he would find the transition easier to figure out with a better professional network, which could provide different role models and help him recognise alternate options.

Cultivating lifelong learning, bringing variety to employment, supporting individuals’ capacity to transform – these are just some of the ways you can help your employees develop their “intangible assets”.

You might also support their family life, by considering the needs of dual-income families. Family and friendships are assets too, in today’s stressful world.

And – crucially - you could give people the time and flexibility in their work schedule to build up all these assets.

It’s in your interests to do so, because you need your workforce to stay highly skilled, engaged, resilient and healthy if you want to stay competitive.

In any case, before long, you may have no choice.

workplace-eyeGood candidates are likely to prioritise workplaces that can help them develop these skills, because they will become every bit as vital to them as salary. (Well, almost….)

The traditional career structure is changing, and the workplace has no choice but to change with it.

So how is your business going to help your workers develop more “intangible” assets?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Posted by Steve Butler

Topics: Savings And Lifestyle, Age diversity

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