The Japanese workforce is getting older
Japan’s labor crunch is leading a growing number of employers to hire older employees. In fact, last year, 40% of Japanese companies hired people aged 70 or more, according to data from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. Experts attribute the labor shortage to a weakened yen – which has made Japan a less appealing workplace for foreigners and pushed Japanese youth to go abroad for higher-paying jobs – and low labor participation among women who tend to experience gender pay gaps and limited support in advancing their careers. However, Japan isn’t alone in encouraging people to work longer. French president Emmanuel Macron, for example, announced plans to increase the nation’s retirement age from 62 to 64, and globally, Bain & Company estimated that 150 million more workers aged 55+ will be in the workforce by 2030.
Menopause is the latest frontier for corporate benefits
More than 40% of female workers in the U.S. today are at least 45 years old, which is the age at which women typically transition to menopause. And yet, despite the high cost and common experience of menopause, it has generally been ignored in the workplace… until now. 15% of large organizations, up from just 4% last year, indicate they are either currently offering or planning to offer benefits intended to help women experiencing menopausal symptoms, according to a Mercer survey – from virtual access to certified specialists and therapists to coverage of often expensive hormone treatment, which may not be included in some insurance plans. Experts explain this is a critical tactic to retain older, high-performing female talent, and providers of menopause-support services say uptake has already been fast.
The AI corner
AI is fueling the fraud economy
While fake money requests from loved ones are nothing new, AI is starting to offer new techniques for scammers that are making them a lot harder to avoid. For example, AI-generated children’s voices have become so realistic, they can effectively fool their own parents when asking for money. Additionally, AI is able to create masks from social media photos that can penetrate facial recognition security features. And according to New Zealand’s cybersecurity agency, what fraud teams are seeing so far is only a taste of what AI will make possible. In fact, US consumers lost $8.8 billion to financial fraud last year (before AI took off), up 44% from 2021, and cybercrime costs worldwide are set to grow to $10.5 trillion by 2025.
AI gave a paralyzed woman her voice back
In a historical milestone of neuroscience and artificial intelligence, after nearly 20 years of silence, a paralyzed woman was able to communicate again. Implanted electrodes effectively decoded her brain signals as she silently tried to say sentences, and using her wedding toast to develop the avatar’s voice, the technology converted her brain signals into written and vocalized language. The avatar on a computer screen, with a face resembling hers, was able to speak the words and display genuine human expressions. This research, published in Nature, reflects the first time spoken words and facial expressions have been directly synthesized from brain signals. For now, the implant must be connected by cable from the person’s head to a computer, but the team is already developing a wireless version, hoping to enable people who have lost speech to converse in real time through computerized pictures of themselves.
Managing people who are older than you
Age and work experience have long been the pillars of managerial growth paths, with respect and authority earned over time. But in today’s world of work, things are changing. Millennials outnumber all other generations in the workforce, and as technology and artificial intelligence move to the forefront of workplace conversations, the length of one’s work tenure is no longer the greatest indicator of managerial fit.
Between this shift, ongoing layoffs scrambling corporate hierarchies, and many older workers putting off retirement for economic reasons, younger employees are increasingly finding themselves managing people with more years of experience under their belts. In fact, a Harris Interactive survey conducted on behalf of CareerBuilder.com found that nearly 40% of U.S. workers had a younger boss – 22% reported to someone a few years younger, while 16% reported to someone at least 10 years their junior. And with many companies engaged in an AI recruiting frenzy, willing to pay salaries approaching seven figures to hire top talent, even recent grads who majored in AI could be promoted to manager before long, according to experts.
Unfortunately, per the research above, many workers with younger bosses reported having more negative perceptions of their managers than those with older bosses. They often cited doubts in their managers’ experience and decision-making abilities as well as their own technological gaps as key sources of their dissatisfaction. A recent Wall Street Journal article found that intergenerational teams often clash over speed of work and tone of voice, with younger managers wanting things done faster and older workers confusing the casual way millennials speak with a lack of respect.
So, as a younger manager, how do you demonstrate your authority the right way?
Embrace your role
Acknowledge that you have your title for a reason. You proved yourself enough to earn that role and in order for your subordinates to see that, you must believe you’re capable. If you’re afraid your employees won’t take you seriously, they won’t. As simple as it sounds, it’s important to consistently remind yourself that you belong in the seat you’re occupying.
Lead with respect
While it’s important to assert yourself and take charge, it’s also essential to give respect to the people with whom you work by creating space for those who may have been at the company longer or who come with more work experience to voice their thoughts and needs. Schedule one-on-one meetings with each of your team members to understand, from their perspectives, what’s working, what could be improved, and what they need from you as their manager. By taking the time to get their ideas and input, you set the right tone across the board and position yourself as a qualified leader.
Understand that no one expects you to have all the right answers all the time, but they do expect you to be honest and open about what’s going on. So, whenever possible, share the strategies you’re contemplating, update the team on challenges the company is facing, and even loop them into brainstorming sessions to navigate relevant hurdles together.
Adjust language and expectations
It’s widely known that different generations communicate differently, especially in the workplace – older workers tend to use more formal tones and language, while younger workers often speak more casually. As a leader, it’s important to take this into account when engaging with your intergenerational team, and also being considerate about certain lingo that may not be known to everyone. Regardless of whom you’re speaking with, try to convey confidence through your language. For example, do your best to avoid using words like “um,” “like,” and “I think.”
On a similar note, with the speed of work being another factor that causes contention in an intergenerational workplace, try to leave room for different approaches to the same end goal.
Give meaningful recognition
Make sure not to take credit for your team members’ work and accomplishments. According to a recent Gallup study, employees are four times as likely to be engaged at work if they feel strongly that they receive the right amount of recognition for their contributions. So, give your team credit for their ideas and successes, and provide them with opportunities to showcase their achievements in larger forums. These efforts show that you’re a leader who’s confident enough to hand over the spotlight and focus on supporting your team members.
Create a team knowledge base
Help your employees learn from one another. Some team members may want more technological guidance and AI support while others may need help with time management and big-picture strategy. That’s why it’s so important to ask individual employees to share their knowledge and best practices with the rest of the group when you think they have useful insights and expertise. This can encourage your employees to reach out to one another for support and give you the confidence to take a step back, knowing your employees can depend on internal team experts as well.
Recognize different life stages
Take the time to learn about your team members and get a sense of the challenges they’re facing in order to identify how you can best support them. For example, the parents on your team may need some flexibility when it comes to their working hours, while your younger employees may need help creating a healthy work-life balance. Regardless, do your best to accommodate the different needs of your employees.
Additionally, when organizing team outings or networking opportunities, recognize that your team members likely have their own responsibilities outside of work, so whenever possible, try to plan these events during the workday to ensure they don’t have to sacrifice their personal time in order to attend.
Nothing about your age or years of work experience pre-determines your success as a leader. Great leaders show strength and humility, are willing to learn, and know how to confidently make decisions. So, embrace your leadership skills, trust your expertise, do your best to build the foundations for a healthy team, and set stereotypes aside as you lead different kinds of people. You’ve got this.
Water cooler chatter
A penguin in Scotland was just promoted to major general by His Majesty the King’s Guard of Norway. Already a brigadier, the bird was given his new badge and title among 160 uniformed soldiers in the continuation of a long-held tradition of the Edinburgh Zoo. His full title is now Major General Sir Nils Olav III, Baron of the Bouvet Islands.
YouTube is launching an experiment on Android devices that can determine a song via humming, which is a noteworthy step up from Shazam’s music recognition capabilities. The feature is built on machine learning models that can match a person’s humming to a song’s signature melody.
Question of the week
Last week’s answer: $1.88 billion
This week’s question: What’s the most popular day of the year for employees to call in sick?