The value and challenges of bringing generations together in the workplace was the topic that Encore.org President Ann MacDougall and Be Social Change founder Marcos Salazar took up at a “Fireside Chat” in New York City that drew a standing-room-only crowd.
MacDougall had a long legal career at PwC, during which she served as US General Counsel in NYC and Global Deputy General Counsel in Paris. She eventually realized, “I’d like to do something different than make the world safe for capitalism,” which led her to the anti-poverty global investment fund Acumen, where she served as COO, to Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Institute and finally, to conversations with Encore.org’s CEO and founder Marc Freedman.
Encore talent represents a unique opportunity for organizations – from corporations to social-impact groups – and individuals of all generations, MacDougall said. The encore movement matters to society because the vast and expert encore-talent resource stands ready to address some of society’s most pressing issues, including mentoring rising generations. Younger workers, from Millennials to Gen Xers, feel the pull to social impact earlier in their careers, Salazar noted, and can benefit profoundly from mentors and role models who are blazing an encore path – post-midlife contributions that characterize the new “encore” life-stage.
“Encore.org exists to create a new norm in society and the world,” MacDougall said. “We see the experience and longevity dividends as win-wins for society and encore-stage individuals, and a huge win for the communities that benefit.”
Salazar built on the longevity theme to note that for the first time, four generations of colleagues find themselves in the world of work – but too often, the different generations don’t connect, and miss out on the opportunity to collaborate, share skills and learn. “We have a lot to teach each other,” he said, “but we don’t know what intergenerational collaboration looks like, and we don’t have the infrastructure” that fosters cross-generational work environments.
“We have a long way to go in this country and the world before we understand the power of intergenerational diversity” as a business norm, MacDougall said. Diversity is a familiar goal of many organizations, but age diversity is generally not part of the desired mix, a gap that Salazar said requires attention.
Encore.org aims to bridge that gap in different ways, MacDougall said. Many Purpose Prize winners and fellows work with colleagues of every generation, often bringing younger leaders into the succession pipeline and developing talent with an eye to generational change. Sharing and elevating those stories promotes the practice of intergenerational collaboration – and shows that it works, across diverse and disparate settings. Encore.org and its partners are working to launch a campaign in 2016 that squarely targets the strength of intergenerational connections, with a focus on mobilizing encore talent to help vulnerable children and youth. This campaign will engage millions of experienced adults in visible, community-based roles.
MacDougall said that barriers in funding and cultural perceptions around aging are obstacles she and the Encore team must surmount. But when Salazar asked where the encore movement will be in 20 years, MacDougall’s wish list was explicit: “This idea – encore – should be part of the life arc and an accepted life stage. I would like every American to know that there is a possibility to have an encore career, and that whoever wants one, has one. And I want people to start planning for their encore careers when they are young; I want the Common App to ask, ‘What is your encore career going to be?’”