Ask any young adult what they need more from their employer and they will most likely tell you ‘money’. After all they need it the most: Money to buy or build a house, money for a new family car, for the children’s upkeep and education, for paying their taxes and extra insurances, just in case they die before they get old.

When you think about it, our EU remuneration rules are really upside down.  When you turn fifty the demands on your cash seem to die away. One day you look in your bank account and notice some money in there! And when you look more closely, your monthly statements indicate that you have a steady trend of more cash coming in than going out! So what do us middies do?  We look for wonderful things to buy like Mont Blanc fountain pens, and Luis Vuitton bags for our partners. We take weekend city trips and look for ways to compensate for the fact that we’re getting older.

But seriously, there is a kind of discriminatory madness that lingers on from olden times, the Belgians call it ‘Ancieniteit’ or ‘length of service’ or ‘seniority’ as some Brits like to refer to it.  Basically it means getting paid more for the length of time you have been doing it.  I have no problem paying people for the job they do but what is the sense of paying people more, simply because they have been doing it for longer?  If the tasks you do and the responsibilities you have are the same as a younger person, why would you pay an older person more?  And then there are the mad redundancy terms.  The longer someone works for a company, the more expensive it is to release them.  We make our older employees too expensive to replace, while the young ones struggle to make ends meet. 

In my next company I want to employ loads of young people and pay them over the top wages, thereby getting the very best choice of the bunch.  They won’t care about a thirty year career path and they shouldn’t need to anyway.  Who knows what the world will look like in thirty years and what company today can honestly guarantee anyone a ‘secure career’.  Even the words ‘secure career’ fill me with dread.  

Young people have piles of energy, enthusiasm and open minds for change and new ideas. To manage them I’ll find some retired managers (preferably in their late sixties to mid-seventies) that do not want to sit on the scrap heap but would rather be out there demonstrating their management and motivational techniques.  Who knows they may even have some wisdom to share?

But what should we do with the forty five to sixty five year olds? Perhaps we should give them early retirement, so they can go out and explore life before they are too old; doing what they always dreamed of?  Or perhaps we should encourage them to do voluntary work oversees in under developed countries?   In any case, when they are ready, they can re-apply for open positions, safe in the knowledge that they will not be priced out of the job market because it will be the youngsters getting the high salaries.

Not sure how all this would work in practice, but I am ready to give it some thought over a nice bottle Pomerol this Christmas.  In any case it’s bound to create a lively debate at the dinner table!

Enjoy your Christmas break,