A lot is made in the media of young entrepreneurs who become massively successful in their early twenties. Whether it be social media influencers, or leaders of new tech start-ups, these people are raised up as examples of a vibrant tech-industry. We have a high-profile YouTuber living in our village and his BMW i8 always gets our children's attention when charging on his drive!

I was actually pleasantly surprised on Friday. I spent the morning talking to 120 year nine students at Longsands Academy in St. Neots about my career path. They were generally quite mature and none of them had career aspirations as a YouTuber. This is at odds with the survey published last year saying that 75% of young people wanted to follow this career path. In fact they were all very respectful and many seemed genuinely interested in the subjects they needed to choose to succeed in their careers.

The issue with the media either exaggerating or over-promoting the people at the top of the tech-ladder is that older talent is getting overlooked. This can be particularly true in marketing where 'old' appears to have little value either in the workforce or as consumers. The need to reward and nurture young talent is obvious but we should also be celebrating the career-long achievements of the talent who continues to deliver the creative work that drives this industry.

When it comes to the digital economy, especially, the hard-won experience of those that actually built this industry, is even more vital. It's one of the reasons why there continues to be research pouring out proving that the most successful tech founders aren't actually the startup kids of popular myth but those in their forties and fifties.

Why would you not hire people who have the experience, the understanding, the success (and the failures of the past) to make the company better? They are mentors to youngsters, wise heads to steer business thinking, and talent that adds benefit to the bottom line.

Reliving his youth
I quite often hear 'I'm too old' as an excuse of why an individual is not happy adopting a new way of working or a new software program. This doesn't help this cause at all. Especially as in my experience my generation is not growing up! All of my friends, acquaintances and work colleagues are in many ways acting the same as they did in their twenties and thirties, spending time and money on the things they have always enjoyed. Many still playing video games and listening to the same genre of music they did in the 90's.

The danger here is that the desperate cult of youth means makerters also don't see this demographic as a viable target. Instead we continue to court the millennial generation at all costs. Of course, brands need to try and win the lifetime loyalty of their future customers but the incredible behavioural shifts we've witnessed over the past decades seem to be ignored by a marketing industry that prides itself on a forensic understanding of human behaviour.

While 78% of over 50s are in charge of their household spending, with the age group accounting for half of all consumer spending in the UK, brands continue to ignore them or peddle a desperately out of date, cliched view of the generation. The view of over-50s is that brands aren't interested in them unless they're selling anti-wrinkle cream or Saga holidays.

My father used to call me 'Peter Pan' due to my apparently childish hobbies and fear of commitment. I can safely say I've moved on a bit now I'm mortgaged up to the hilt with four children. But I still enjoy spending my spare time on the same activities I did when I was younger. It's time for the marketing industry to begin maturing itself to see the benefits of targeting the older generation both with their products and their most influential jobs.
In my role I'm frequently expected to be up to date with all of the latest digital tools and tips. I've actually started to make a point of this in the last few weeks with my '#factfriday' posts on Microsoft Teams. Every Friday I post a new tip (i.e. my latest is a little workaround to extract images/videos from PowerPoint presentations) to try to make the lives of my team easier!

This means I'm often the first person tasked with trying out and testing new tools. For me though, it's as much about how something works as why we may need to use it. Yes - there may be a great new cloud document management platform that IT are supporting but unless there is buy in from the whole team it won't take off at all.

I remember an old colleague telling me that when email was first introduced nobody saw the benefit. Work was getting completed just fine with the methods already in existence. So, to force everyone's hand it became the only way meeting appointments and minutes were communicated. Everyone had no choice but to check it regularly, or risk being completely out of the loop. Fast forward a few years and we exist in a world where many people's inboxes, still are, an overflowing nightmare! Now my goal is to disown email where possible with tools like MS Teams and Slack being preferable. 

But, as above, all it takes is for one person to not be invested in changing their working habits to cause complications. Again, I remember an old senior manager of mine printing out all his emails on a Friday. He then put them in his briefcase to read over the weekend, draft responses and give to his PA to type up and send. That's added admin and slow response times for all involved!

The subtext behind being told you need to train everyone on a new piece of software can be one of two things:
  1. "This new thing is so bizarrely new that no adult Earthling could possibly figure it out without formal training" OR
  2. “This new thing is a pain in my neck and I don’t know how to introduce it. I’ll have someone in the team train everyone and call it a day"
Either way, the expectation is that you to unleash an avalanche of 'training' on innocent people who would rather just do their jobs. Before training commences it actually makes more sense to give the new software to a few people who would benefit most and watch them figure it out. Their struggles (or lack of struggle) will show what support they really need. A help screen or short reference is likely to be enough “training” in this case.

When introducing Trello as a tool, a number of years a ago, we set clear goals as to what we wanted to achieve. These weren't simply to mandate an in depth training session for everyone. Instead we set measurable goals such as eliminating handover meetings, reducing emails by 20%, allowing more remote working and reducing the reliance on flaky shared drives.

These goals didn’t assume that training is the answer, and they justified the expense of the project in terms the organization cares about. It also left room for many solutions, including job aids.

I'm pretty much self taught on most of the software I use. Some of it I'm better at than others, but I like to think that I've made a point of learning those features which are most beneficial to my job. I probably only use about 60% of the features of most of these and I always start with a task I'm looking to achieve before selecting the best way to do it. This can be asking a colleague, watching a video or clicking about hoping not to break something!
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