All company workforces are teams and the best teams have a blend of both youth and experience. That’s what football managers always say, but it’s a universal truth. The ‘youth and experience’ blend is vital whether your business is Property or Proper Tea.
It’s especially important in the technology industries, because all business systems have only two basic functions, to make you earn more or spend less. Each is a function of either youth or experience. Technology should either make you work faster (i.e. inject some youthful energy) or help you save money (through experience). Journalists assess all technology by this simple criterion: does this technology save time or money? Which, to my mind, is about the raw power (the youth) and the intelligence (the experience) of the technology.
Tragically though, in its dealing with people, the technology industry seems to waste both of these precious human resources. On one hand, many young people struggle to get their first job in the technology industry. They can’t get any experience and nobody will give it to them. On the other hand, anyone over forty seems to be regarded as unemployable. Which is odd, because IT is supposed to value knowledge above all else. But it doesn’t seem to. So the two most bankable human assets, youth and experience, are frequently cast aside.
There must be a way of teaming them up. Maybe they should be made to work together.
The speed and staying power of young players complements perfectly the judgment and economy of their older team mates who have been there before, know which fatal mistakes to avoid and where all the bodies are buried. Those teams/companies that get the balance between these two extremes right have a solid foundation to win competitions.
Most youngsters seem to instinctively know their way around any new system. They know where every feature is, what it does and how to configure it. Whereas older people like me only use about 5 per cent of the features in Word. Worse still our IT literacy drops with each new version that Microsoft releases, because a fifth of the features we liked will have disappeared or been moved for no apparent reason.
We may not know where the features are in apps, but we do know how companies work, who to speak to and what to avoid doing. Which makes us the complete opposite of our youthful counterparts. So surely the two ends of age spectrum have complimentary skills. We could teach the youth about security policies and they could show us how to really lock it down. Given the opposing polarities, we should naturally gravitate towards each other. But we don’t.
So, how do we bring them together? We need to learn to share and pass things on. In my experience of working in the IT industry, few people ever share information. Perhaps it was the company I kept, but from memory nobody would give anything away if they had information that they could exploit. If they were the only ones who knew how to reset the phone switchboard, then it was in their interests to keep it a mystery. If work came to a standstill on their day off and they had to be called in, their selfishness would be rewarded with a massive overtime payment.
Surely there is a massive gap in the market for matching people up who can work with each other. There are a number of challenges to overcome though. You can’t just match every young person with an older person. For a start their personalities might clash. Some youths think they know everything, and some older people are too stuck in their ways. There are some young minded older people and, conversely, some people who are old before their time. So there is massive variety in both camps. And not every random couple’s experience will complement each other either.
So what we need is some of Mentoring Matchmaking system. Sort of like Tinder or OK Cupid or Grindr, but for work purposes. Mentorist is my working title for this app.
I’d develop it myself, but I need a young person to show me how to programme. I need someone I can work with, who can work with me, for our mutual benefit. But where on earth do you find someone like that? That sort of team spirit isn’t easily built.