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Time for organisational capability and age-conscious leadership?

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The ageing population is one of our greatest social challenges. The new AgeCap interdisciplinary research centre highlights the matter from several perspectives. Professor Ewa Wikström is studying what happens in our workplaces as we edge closer to retirement age.

Ewa Wikström

Ageing and retirement are a constant topic for debate. The pension system is being rocked, at the same time as today’s 70 year-olds are healthy and sharp, and some professions are experiencing a workforce deficit.

“Presumably, workplace conditions – both the physical and organisational – and attitudes and values influence how and when we choose to retire. However, there is little research in the area,” says Ewa Wikström.

Working together with businesses

In one project, Ewa Wikström and her colleagues welcomed people from different organisations to round table discussions. The criterion was that participants worked in some form of age-conscious management.

“We received a huge level of response from both the public and private sectors. We have now gathered seven organisations in a research consortium who will discuss the matter over several years. It provides one way to learn from each other and to use the consortium as a testbed for new ideas and practices, and the possibility to find good projects we can study in real-life situations,” says Ewa Wikström.

Any results in the pipeline?

There are a number of on-going case studies. It is too early to present the analyses and data, but interesting patterns have already emerged.

“We can see the themes that arise in the discussions. It is striking how few of the discussions mention age. They mainly focus on labour deficits, tacit knowledge and skills transfer. I think we have a reason to think about the signals we send about work and age. Are the skills held by older workers viewed as an asset to the organisation, or has extended working life only become an issue of a labour deficit,” concludes Ewa Wikström.
 

EWA WIKSTRÖM

Ewa Wikström is Professor of Management & Organisation at the Department of Business Administration.
 

This is an article from the School's Magazine 2017