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Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?

pensionersThe famous lyric from the Beatles song of 1967 has moved from an individual plea to a loved one, to a more general appeal to society.  A lot has happened between 1967 and now: man has landed on the moon, the Communist Soviet Union has disintegrated, almost everyone has amazing technology at their finger tips and we are now living longer than ever before.

If you were an 18 year old in 1967 you would be one of the Baby Boomers joining the UK workforce for the first time.   You are now 64 and possibly looking forward to your pension and retirement.  The state pension age has been stuck at 65 for men and 60 for woman for that person’s whole life.  Whilst the rest of the world has changed at an alarming rate, the “Old Age Pension” age has remained the same.

The opportunity to be a retired pensioner is a relatively recent occurrence.  Prior to the Old Age Pension Act of 1908 there was no state help and it was looked at as being semi villainous to be old with no money or means to support yourself.  You either begged, starved, or if you were lucky (or maybe unlucky) you ended up in the Workhouse.  However, this act only came into force if you were over 70 and without means of over £31.50…….per year!  It wasn’t until the National Insurance Act of 1946 that we saw the introduction of a comprehensive social security system that covered unemployment, sickness and retirement, as we know today.

We all know that there is an ageing population problem, but what is it and what does it mean?  Let’s have a look at some of the data that is freely available at the UK Office of National Statistics.

In 1967 the life expectancy for a man was 69.1.  This meant that a man, on average, only lived for four years after reaching the state retirement age of 65.  In 2010 the life expectancy for a man in England had grown to 78.9, almost an eight-year increase in only 43 years.  If, however, you reached your 65th birthday in 2010 you were expected to live until a whopping 83.4.  This means that over the last 43 years a man has been living on average one extra year for every 3-5 years lived – really astonishing.

The trend looks to carry on, with the expectation that 33% of children born in 2012 will live to 100.  In 2012 there were 14,500 centenarians – by only 2035 it is forecast that there will be 110,000.

The actuaries have got their figures hopelessly wrong in the past.  Private and public pension promises that were made to workers cannot be fulfilled.  Bear in mind that in developed countries, 60% of the cost of an average pension is paid by the state.

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Mirrors, cameras, social media and cultural evolution – Seth Godin

Mirrors, cameras, social media and cultural evolution – Seth Godin

Earlier today, Seth Godin posted an interesting piece on his blog about mirrors, cameras and cultural evolution. Read it at his blog or below.

He points out that a few centuries ago nobody would have known what their “true” reflection looked like as their were no mirrors available. Today, nobody is scared of mirrors. But some people are scared of cameras. They might not feel scared, but the way they act when a camera is pointed at them indicates otherwise.

And he then pushes his point to the issue of social media, and how some people still fear it. This is a fascinating insight in the same week that Domo and CEO.com released a report saying that only 19 out of 500 of America’s top CEOs are active on social media (only 28 of them have Twitter accounts at all). I am writing a separate blog entry on that statistic (it will be released later this week, here). But for now, I’ll leave you with Seth’s thoughts about cultural evolution. And the fact that it’s inevitable.

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Is it evil to avoid tax?

Devil business manGoogle famously has the slogan “don’t be evil”. They are however embroiled in a worldwide issue – is tax avoidance evil? Not only have Google been dragged into the fray,  but Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Starbucks and even famous individuals such as Jimmy Carr have come under the spotlight for not paying their fair share of tax

Tax evasion is illegal, but avoidance is not. It is recognised that the more money you have, the more likely you are to be able to afford expensive accountants and lawyers to reduce tax. Apple, according to a study conducted by Millward Brown Optimar, for WPP is the most valuable brand on the planet, with Google second.

So how have Google only paid £10 million in corporation tax on revenues of nearly £12 billion, when they openly claim to make 25% profit? They carry out something called “Double Irish”. Their business is registered in Ireland where corporation tax is a lot lower and is allowed to move their profit offshore. In Google’s case this is the British Overseas Territory of The Cayman Islands, which has no income, capital gains or corporation tax. They end up with an effective tax rate of 2.4%. This obviously makes great business sense and if the British Government wants to change this arrangement they can obviously change the status of the Cayman Islands.

Google does indirectly pay tax though. All their employees in the country that they are working from pay income tax on their earnings, state taxes, national insurance and VAT. Google are also making a huge investment in the UK by building a massive HQ at Kings Cross in London, reputedly costing £300 million that will give much needed work for the construction sector. Once built it will directly provide jobs and indirectly give a boost to services such as bars, restaurants, shops, gyms, transport etc., in the local area.

Tax evasion is not illegal, so why all the fuss? At TomorrowToday we believe they are missing the point and are not taking notice of a major disruptive force; the opinions and power of the people within Generation X and Y. Even though Google was very famously founded by Gen Xer’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin they looked to a classic Baby Boomer in the form of Eric Schmidt to be the CEO of Google from 2001 to 2011 He was recruited to run the company under the guidance of Venture Capitalists that are in turn Baby Boomers. He went about his task to make the business more productive, more efficient and more profitable, because that’s what is expected; companies are there to make money and deliver returns to shareholders. As the CEO, it is his duty to reduce costs and if tax can be reduced, so be it. His systems are still in place even though Larry Page took over the reigns in April 2011. Ironically Eric Schmidt is part of Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron’s Business Advisory Group. At Apple the CEO is Tim Cook, Microsoft is Steve Bulmer, Starbucks Howard Schultz, the list goes on of household names that are CEO’s of businesses that are not paying their taxes. All of these Baby Boomers might be great business people to increase productivity and decrease costs, but are they in touch with the values of the younger generations? The days are over of having only your shareholders to answer to. Today’s younger generations are more attuned to the creation of a fairer world that looks after the whole, not just the individual. If you want them to buy from you, you need to show how you care for the world and its people. People will vote with their feet (Starbucks) or more likely their fingers in today’s connected world if businesses are not trusted and do not contribute to society. Generation X and Y are not brand loyal; they will find another service or product that suits their needs and values.

Superstar businesses of today, be wary. Back in 2000 Apple wasn’t even in the top 20 companies and you had probably never even heard of Google. Already both Apple and Google have fallen out of the top 20 Most Trusted Businesses in the USA according to the Ponema Institute. Huge companies and famous brands such as Cisco, Yahoo, Myspace, AOL, Dell and Nokia have fallen from lofty heights. You are never too big or famous to fail (unless you are a bank of course, but that’s another story). Plug into the values of today’s people and ignore them at your peril. It would be a shame that worthwhile projects that are being progressed by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, to try and solve the worlds energy and climate problems were cut short because they were not in touch with the very people they are trying to help be rid of evils such as pollution, famine and poverty.

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Podcast: The Customer Experience Show – Secrets of Successful Multi-Generational Work Cultures

Podcast: The Customer Experience Show – Secrets of Successful Multi-Generational Work Cultures

Dean and myself were interviewed by Michelle Romanica on the Customer Experience Show on Blogtalk Radio. It was a great show, with some fascinating insights into multi-generational workplaces.

The blurb of the show says:

In their work, Graeme Codrington and Dean van Leeuwen have conducted extensive research, working to address the emerging issue of generational differences that can cause problems in the workplace today. Graeme and Dean have worked to bridge this gap in theory, implementing it in practice in many companies. Anna Elwood, Director of Operations, was one of ZocDoc’s early employees who helped shape this company. ZocDoc has seen a work model emerge naturally; one that focused on the uniqueness of generational needs rather than focusing on differences to “divide and conquer”. It works on principles that demonstrate Graeme and Dean are not talking about “pie in the sky”. Here is a company that is practicing what it takes to “bridge the gap” and succeed together.

Listen to internet radio with Customer Experience on Blog Talk Radio
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I want you in my office. Now. What’s really going on at Yahoo?

I want you in my office. Now. What’s really going on at Yahoo?

The biggest tech news so far this year has been an announcement by Yahoo that they want “all hands on deck” and that all work-from-home is being cancelled as from June. Irked Yahoo employees have leaked the memo that was sent by HR head Jackie Reses. Apparently the move comes from the very top, from CEO Marissa Mayer, and will be applied without exception to all remote workers, both those who do so full-time and any who have flexible work from home arrangements. Read the memo and some initial analysis here.

The key message is that Yahoo wants to become “the very best place to work”, and wants to do this using “communication and collaboration” and “working side-by-side”. But then, the real intent is clear: Yahoo wants to be “more productive, efficient and fun” and says that “speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home”.

The response from a world that is assuming that more remote working is the future has been loud and incredulous. Is this really the way forward? Has Marissa Mayer made a huge misstep here? Or does she know something we don’t?

What’s going on?

We know that Mayer is under pressure to produce profits at Yahoo, and does not have much more time to deliver a fairly radical turnaround. We also know that she has a fairly forceful leadership style. Business Insider resported a few months ago that an unnamed staffer told them of a team of Yahoo’s product designers who pitched a new product to Mayer. She approved the product on the condition that they get it to market months ahead of their own schedule. Then Mayer supposedly told them they had exactly one week to figure out how to get the product out by the end of the year, and that they would all be fired if they couldn’t get it done.

The stated reason behind the move by Mayer is that she had done an analysis of the VPN (virtual private network) data of remote workers, and Yahoo employees working from home were not logging into the system for enough hours during the day. Supporters of the move have largely pointed to two things: the fact that work from home people can slack off, and the need to have everyone in the office if you’re going to effect quick culture change.

The second reason may be right, but the first one seems spurious. Most remote workers are unlikely to be constantly on the VPN, especially if the system itself is not as user friendly or helpful as it could be. And if you’ve employed a bunch of slackers, you can bet that they’ll slack off in your office almost as well as they could slack off at home. The only difference is that you’ll have lost some productive hours due to traffic and commuting time.

Studies on telecommuting are conflicted right now, mainly because it’s a nuanced thing. It works well for some functions, but not others. It works well for some people, but not others. However, it seems that, in general, in increases productivity, wellness and motivation for most people.

So, why did she do it?

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‘Mind the Gap’ is now available in Kindle

‘Mind the Gap’ is now available in Kindle

My award winning and best selling book, “Mind the Gap” has just been released in electronic format and is now available in Kindle and other e-pub formats.

My publisher, Penguin, has finally completed a worldwide deal with Amazon to release all Penguin titles on Kindle and is also now releasing its full back catalogue in e-format. This has taken too long, but it’s brilliant news now that it’s finally happened. The process will probably take a few months to complete.

It’s great news for me, as my books are now available in 21st century formats.

‘Mind the Gap’ is my best selling book about understanding different generations. I completed a major update and revision in November 2011, and this is the book now available in Kindle. Penguin have also priced it very well at half the price of the paperback. You can now buy it from Amazon.co.uk.

My other books are also available.

‘Future-Proof Your Child’ is for parents of pre-teen children, to help them parent a wired generation of kids into a bright future. Buy it on Amazon.co.uk Kindle here.

‘Navigating Your Career’ is for anyone still working or about to start working, and presents five steps to building a career in a new world of work. Buy it at Amazon.co.uk Kindle here.

At last, I can feel part of the 21st century as an author.

If you’ve been waiting for the e-versions of my books, I hope you enjoy them. Looking forward to your feedback and comments.

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A question to leaders everywhere: What questions are you asking?

A question to leaders everywhere: What questions are you asking?

Most people collect something or other. For some it is stamps, for others it might be model cars or antiques or things that have little significance beyond the passion of the collector. I too have a collection, albeit an unusual one but one that I think every leader would do well to imitate. I know that may sound somewhat presumptuous but I really do believe that my collection can make a significant difference to those tasked with the heavy responsibility of leadership.

To be honest I’m not quite sure when it all started and it is not the kind of collection that one can display; nor is it one that could be sold as it really doesn’t have any intrinsic value in and of itself. Yes, it is an unusual collection but one I would like to share with you as you make your way in the journey we call ‘leadership’.

I collect questions.

Not just any questions but those kinds of questions that seem to have the ability to turn things inside-out, upside-down and sometimes, right-way up. The kind of questions that can serve as a companion for quite some time and that tend to stick with you whether you like it or not. The kind of questions that are hard to ignore and the type of questions that somehow invite new insights and fresh perspectives. The type of questions that act as gateways to paths previously thought unattainable.

But you know what I mean.

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Podcast: Introducing the generations and an Updated ‘Mind the Gap’

Podcast: Introducing the generations and an Updated ‘Mind the Gap’

I have spent the last two weeks in South Africa, promoting my new book, ‘Navigating Your Career’ and the updated edition of my best selling book, “Mind the Gap” (see details and purchasing options here).

As part of this tour, I did a number of media interviews. One of them was a half hour with my original co-author of ‘Mind the Gap’, Sue Grant-Marshall, who now hosts a book show on Radio Today. This is now available as a podcast here.

You’ll hear an overview of the different generations, and a discussion on why understanding the value systems of those older and younger than yourself is so important in every aspect of your life.


I’d love to hear your feedback here.

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What next for not-for-profits?

Not-for-Profits rely on trust. In an age when the reputation of the banking sector has been crushed and suspicion of corporates is high, customers are demanding ever-increasing transparency from organizations. Charities and social enterprises need to be above reproach in all aspects of their business. Recent bad press about the practice of ‘chugging’ has not helped a sector that can often be seen as old-fashioned and inflexible. It’s tough to fundraise during a recession, but tactics that can be seen as ‘strong arm’ can alienate as many potential customers as they attract.

The not-for-profit organizations that flourish in the next 5-10 years will be those that both engage Boomers (who are about to become the volunteers and direct-debiters that keep large charities afloat) as well as Generation Y who are very generous but hard to find and keep.  These young people put a very high value on trust and transparency. The better news for the sector is that they are hugely community-focused (that is the community they have chosen to support – not necessarily the town they live in), keen to ‘do good’ and supportive of causes they believe in.

They also have the benefit of, and instinct for, Social Media which lets them spread their support of a cause, or organization, within seconds. The gap between charities, particularly large ones, and their supporters can be very wide, and using Social Media as a tool to foster relationships and build trust will be a pre-requisite for not-for-profit success. But it has to translate into action – just clicking ‘like’ is not enough. The message needs to be clear (something that some big, established charities find surprisingly hard) and the call to action clearer still.  Movember is a great example of a charity that has utilized social media effectively to communicate a simple goal and activity to help it grow from just 450 participants in Australia in 2004 to over 854,000, raising £79m across 14 countries in 2011.  The fun factor undoubtedly helps as well – worthiness is not appealing  and certainly won’t impress Generations X and Y.

We’ve yet to touch the surface of what mobile technology will achieve.  However, not-for-profits, like other businesses, need to keep up with this radical change in consumer behaviour that has already been adopted by many- not just  the very young.  Apps such as Sparkwise allow charities to be transparent and engaging by using data visualisations to report key facts and individual stories, whilst also presenting users with a direct link to getting involved.

Yael Cohen is a 25-year old from Vancouver who set up F*** Cancer a not-f0r-profit that encourages and supports Generation Y to engage with their parents about early detection of cancer.  She has written How to convince Gen Y to believe in your cause and your company, which gives some great insights in how not-for-profits (and all businesses) can engage better with Gen Y.

But finally, charities should beware the Social Enterprise sector.  Gen Y may be moral and generous, but they are also highly entrepreneurial and don’t see ‘profit’ as a dirty word. Innovative and energetic start-ups will appeal and engage – and may leave traditional charities struggling to keep up….

We’d love to know your thoughts on where not-for-profits and social enterprises are headed, especially if you work in this very singular sector!

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Your Real Work as a Leader: A sense of vocation

July 11, 2012 Keith Coats Boomers, Leadership, Talent, The workplace 2 Comments
Your Real Work as a Leader: A sense of vocation

“I love what I do!” I have come to realize that there are a lot of people who cannot say that- folk for whom their working life is something to get done so that they can carry on with what really matters to them.

I believe in the message that is at the heart of our company, TomorrowToday. “There is a better way of doing things.” To have the opportunity to be engaged at the very cutting edge of such thinking, across global borders and with all kinds of industries and sectors, is both an immense privilege and an awesome responsibility. It is a responsibility I accept with relish. It makes me want to learn more, see more, improve, grow and consistently bring my ‘A game’. Sometimes when the juices are flowing, I also want to talk more but have come to understand that maybe I need to talk less!

I get to visit interesting places and meet wonderful people- many of whom are the unsung heroes that sacrifice willingly and make a difference daily. I get invited in to watch, ask, participate and learn. And then, to top it all, I get to share that which I have been given through such encounters. What a privilege! If I receive any applause or compliments, the reality is, there is an army behind me more deserving of such feedback and recognition. An army of teachers, mentors and others who, through their thinking, acting, example and wisdom have been the ones that have ‘coloured my picture’.

All this got me thinking about the difference between avocation and vocation. The insightful words of poet Robert Frost bring a degree of clarity in bringing the two – avocation and vocation, together:

‘But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.’

Avocation can be understood as ‘that which one does’ whilst vocation is something to which one feels called. Vocation sits at an altogether deeper level and when tapped into, provides a source of direction and motivation. For some their vocation is all too apparent whilst for others it is the result of deep exploration and self-awareness. The tragedy is that many go through life preoccupied with a sense of avocation that serves to keep them from their vocation. How often have you heard someone say, “I really wanted to be a teacher (or artist or whatever) but I was compelled to become an accountant”? It speaks of a life lived down a path poorly chosen and is usually filled with regret and sometimes resentment.

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Visualising the retirement age crisis around the world

Most countries in the world are in the process of gradually pushing up their retirement age. France’s new President is doing the opposite right now, but that won’t last and the French will soon have to increase retirement age once again. There is no country in the world that is setting retirement age high enough, quickly enough.

Currently, most of us are living one day longer every week we’re alive. Life expectancy is not creeping up – it’s rushing upwards. And, the expectation of how productive people in the upper age ranges will be is also increasing dramatically. Most medical professionals working on longevity realistically predict that the first person to live to 150 years is already alive. More than half of all the people who have ever turned 80 are currently still alive (about 105 million right now, but expected to grow exponentially to as many as a billion people by 2050).

Today, The Economist released this summary of the OECD’s recent report on retirement. This shows the changes in planned and actual (effective) retirement ages, while also showing life expectancy. The comparison between current reality and that of the 1970s shows the extent of problem, as well as  the futility of government’s using up political capital to shift retirement by just two or three years. Really, this is a HUGE issue, and there is not one country in the world dealing with this looming crisis adequately:

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Living Up To Expectations: Understanding Generational Expectations in the Workplace

Living Up To Expectations: Understanding Generational Expectations in the Workplace

Not only are expectations subject to personal nuances, they can be further understood by looking at broad generational values that underpin behaviour.

Generational Theory as originally promoted by Howe and Strauss, two Yale and Harvard trained political economists, suggests that there are value bases to each generation that have been shaped during our formative years and influenced by local events with a global reach. Of course a great deal has since been written and debated when it comes to this theory and arguably TomorrowToday, having presented and taught Generational Theory is some 45 countries, has more experience in this area than any other consultancy or institution globally. The theory provides a helpful framework from which to explore and understand generational differences – and generational similarities.

When it comes to workplace expectations it is useful to understand that each of the Boomer, Gen X and Gen Y generations have distinct and at times contradicting expectations. Let me highlight just three dominant expectations for each of these generations.

Let’s start with a brief look at the Boomers (those born from around 1947 – 1969). Boomers are ‘in charge’ – a fact that needs to be acknowledged as one ramification of this reality is that it is Boomers who set the policies, determine the rules and create the management blueprint.  When you step into a work environment the chances are you will be stepping into a Boomer environment. Being prepared for this will help you adjust!

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Primary Blog contributors

The main contributors to this blog are:

Dr Graeme Codrington, co-founder of TomorrowToday, author, speaker and expert on the changing world of work
Dean van Leeuwen, co-founder and CEO of TomorrowToday UK & Europe, speaker, consultant and Chief Intellectual Adventurer
Keith Coats, co-founder of TomorrowToday South Africa, leadership development guru, speaker and author
Professor Nick Barker, director of the Asia Pacific Leadership Program at the East-West Center in Hawaii, leadership development expert
Markus Kramer, marketing director for Aston Martin and brand building expert
Keith Holdt, Visionary Enabler of business growth and change, currently works for LDC as an investment executive.
Dil Sidhu, Chief External Officer, Manchester Business School; Executive education specialist.
Dawna MacLean, expert on fostering meaningful change and creating authentic experiences through transparent and trusted partnerships.

Click here for a full list of contributors

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