Aging Environment Demands New Way of Thinking

People are living longer and retiring older. The food industry must address this trend in all areas of business, be it HR or R&D.

Healthy living is an important quality in aging consumers. Doctor’s orders or not, people that want to maintain a strong quality of life understand the need to be aware of their eating habits. This has created a growing market niche for functional food, food with health-enhancing qualities. According to Cook Associates Inc research into buying trends of functional food:

“This buoyant growth is being driven, in part, by aging consumers seeking products that offer a solution to health problems. Because functional foods straddle the line between food and pharmacology, they are attractive to health-conscious consumers. For example, Cheerios made headlines last year by advertising the cholesterol fighting power of their cereal, which was attractive to the baby boomer segment. This move by General Mills cost the company relatively little in research and development, because they chose to highlight an existing product benefit.”

Approached correctly, this trend could be a low-cost, high-potential way to present your products to consumers. With a strategic understanding of how your product will satisfy consumer health needs, your company can create a niche market in which to sell.

Health-conscious consumers and health care advancement is leading to longer and more fulfilling lives for consumers and workers. This is one of many factors that are leading to later retirement, and sometimes none at all. According to Gallup research “More than a third of nonretirees today say they will retire after age 65, compared with 12% in 1995.”

This is an important shift that all organizations must react to. Leaders must understand how to manage and support older employees effectively. Michael Schrage of the Harvard Business Review discusses what to consider when one is working 5 years past the “normal” age of retirement.

“Are those extra five years being tacked onto an appreciating or depreciating asset? Even adjusting for age discrimination lawsuits and legislation, how will organizations accommodate a psychographic, demographic, and economic shift every bit as profound as the rise of women in the workplace?”

Now more than ever organizations must understand the corporate culture of supporting multiple generations, how they can work together in the most productive and supportive atmosphere without the threat of being pushed out.

Schrage continues to pry as he, frankly, asks the tough questions that everyone needs to be able to answer:

“What do you think your workday will look like when you’re 70? Are you comfortable with the probability that you will be managing employees younger than your grandchildren? Temperamentally, do you think you’ll add more value as a mentor, a partner, or part-timer? More important, what will your (much) younger boss think? Do you honestly believe that, when you have to work five more years than anticipated, you can get away with not being more facile, adept, and productive with emerging technologies?”

But these uncertainties are not limited to the more seasoned employees. Young employees worry about their career path if succession strategies are not opening up as planned to allow for others to move into roles. Gen Y and Millennial employees are apt to leave a position if they do not see any opportunities for advancement.  How will you retain young talent while preserving matured talent?

These questions may make you squirm, or excite you, depending on how you see this changing culture as a manager. Companies must dive into these challenges with innovative solutions. One trend in mentoring that addresses this need is cross-generational training and mentoring, where a senior and junior employee work together to teach each other new skills. Cross-generational training and mentoring is important to building leadership skills in young high potential leaders as well as help aging managers understand how to integrate technology and fresh ideas into their work.

Consumers and employees. These are the most important people in your business. As a leader, it is important to understand their needs, their concerns, and their goals. Use tools such as industry research, mentoring, and coaching to take your leadership to the next level. The result will be evident across all areas of your business.

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One response to “Aging Environment Demands New Way of Thinking

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