Computer punch cards. Fax machines. Overhead projectors. Lotus 1-2-3. The Walkman. History is littered with technological debris that has passed its use-by date. The world has moved on, as these technologies have been replaced by superior alternatives. Similarly, many hiring practices risk becoming obsolete as their organisations are not evolving alongside societal and technological changes. As the vignettes below illustrate, it’s time to shift our paradigms and embrace the future of work.
50 Is The New 30
Mark looked out into the distance and sighed audibly, “Nobody wants to hire a 50-something…” He had a strong track record, including P&L responsibility for regional businesses in the logistics sector. A well-regarded leader, he had been retrenched about 9 months prior, following a merger, and was close to giving up on his quest for a new role.
The data supports his lived experience. In 2021, the long-term unemployment rate - which reflects those who have been unemployed for 25 weeks or more - for PMETs who are 50 and over was 75% higher than for all resident PMETs.
It’s common to hear sentiments from corporate leaders such as, “We need someone with a bit of runway” which is basically code for someone who is “younger”.
Back in 1960, life expectancy in Singapore was 66 years, so someone in his or her 50s did indeed have a limited runway. Today, we are living, on average, to 84 years, which means that at the “ripe old” age of 50, Mark has another 34 years to go. That’s a long runway by any stretch of the imagination!
Given our increasing lifespans, the first hiring practice we need to abolish is ageism. We need to challenge our thinking around the length of careers and what it means to have a runway. At 50, one is arguably at or around the mid-point of one’s career.
Past Performance Is Not Indicative Of Future Results
Janice shook her head in exasperation, “We can’t find the cybersecurity talent we need. They simply don’t exist!” As the Head of HR for a large insurance company that was expanding rapidly in the region, she was extremely concerned that their inability to fill these critical roles would impede the firm’s growth ambitions. The crux of the issue? Hiring managers were only interested in candidates who had a minimum of 5 years of experience in similar roles.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020, 50% of all employees will need re-skilling by 2025. This means that even if we were to hire someone today with the requisite experience, the relevance of that experience is likely to be short-lived.
Faced with this reality, the second hiring practice we need to banish is the insistence on hiring talent based on past experience. Given the pace of change, a far more compelling strategy is to hire talent that demonstrates the ability to learn and adapt.
The Future is Flexible
Thomas is a qualified CPA who works in finance. He is also an award-winning photographer who is often engaged in commercial shoots (his favourite assignments are in exotic locations). “I’d really like to work a four-day week so that I can continue my work in finance, which I enjoy, AND keep honing my craft as a photographer,” he expressed.
His employer’s view was that the role was a full-time role, and making an exception for him could set a precedent for others. Faced with an ultimatum, Thomas chose to quit and look for a job at another company that would have a more flexible approach to talent.
The third outdated practice we need to dismantle is the rigid adherence to traditional employment arrangements. Whether it be to pursue a personal passion, embark on further studies, care for a young child or aging parent, living till we are 80, 90, or 100 requires a radically different approach to work and life.
The combination of longer lifespans, shorter business life cycles, changing social norms, and technological innovation suggest a future of work that will be more fluid and dynamic. As career reinventions become the norm, individuals will transition in and out of employment, upgrading their skills along the way, while simultaneously self-actualising.
Old school hiring practices are no longer fit for purpose and, like computer punch cards, need to be replaced by superior alternatives.
A version of this article was originally published in The Business Times on Feb 14, 2022.