One thing that business people can do is encourage young people to become entrepreneurs. That's why last year my own company Regus contributed £20 million (US$30.4 million) towards the UK government's Start-up Loans Scheme. That's why all over the world, Regus offers an ever expanding range of flexible work products and services, such as drop-in business lounges and virtual offices that start-up businesses need.
It can be an uphill struggle, when there are precious few jobs on offer, and would-be entrepreneurs are frustrated by inadequate training or education, insufficient access to finance, or the absence of any enterprise culture. This is when employers should do everything they can to level the playing field. Why, for instance, insist on evidence of work experience, or references, when you might set a test specific to the job in question so that every young applicant has an equal chance?
Best of all generations
So how do you attract the best of all the generations? You must be prepared to offer different things to different people.
Young people are not tied to the working and commuting routines of previous generations; they want flexibility, so that they can work from home, or on the move. But many of the over-65s want a different kind of flexibility. They want to keep working, but on their terms - maybe shorter hours, maybe not five days a week. And it's not just in Japan that companies are rising to that challenge.
I was delighted to read in the Financial Times about three companies setting a great example: first, BMW redesigning a production line so that tools, chairs and flooring suited older staff - proving as productive as the rest of the plant, but with lower absence rates; then McDonalds in the UK finding customer satisfaction rising 20 percent in restaurants employing over-60s; and finally, Vita Needle, a family-owned steel tubing company relying on part-time staff with an average age of 74!
What more proof do you need? For any sensible employer, age is irrelevant. All that matters is that you choose people with the right qualities for the job in question. That means being flexible in many different ways, and looking to recruit from the fullest possible range of ages.
Mark Dixon is CEO of Regus
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