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The value of the mature generation to your organisation

Paul Cambo Baloyi joins me for a chai tea at a restaurant in Rivonia.  The former CEO of the Development Bank of Southern Africa is smartly dressed, with a kind expression and warm smile.  Our subject of discussion is the value that the mature generation brings to South African organisations.

At 67 years old Paul’s experience in banking is legendary.  30 years with some of the biggest banks in South Africa has given him a unique perspective on how organisations can remain successful.  “Organisations need to innovate in order to remain successful,” he confirms – and his experience at the DBSA has clearly shown him that innovation is critical.  “But innovation has to co-exist with experience.  Innovation just for the sake of doing things faster is a recipe for disaster.”  And this is where Paul believes that the mature generation can play a tremendous role.

We all think that the ways of thinking from 30 years ago are not relevant anymore – the world has changed too much.  But that argument doesn’t always hold water, Paul warns.  “The mature generation’s experience is invaluable, because they have seen it work or fail before.  Imagine the value of partnering an experienced person’s hard-earned knowledge and wisdom with a youngster who has energy and innovative thought.  The combination is magical.”

The assumption is also sometimes made that the mature generation is tech-illiterate.  Not true, cautions Paul.  “They have matured alongside the youngsters and many of them are not only very tech savvy, but they can combine tech with acquired wisdom relatively easily. That for me offers possibly significant untapped wealth for the country. There are many ways to catalyze this without much disruption and even create new jobs. The most effective (maturing) environment is within existing organizations, not always new start-ups.”

Paul is convinced that change must start with government policy.  Forcing people to retire at 65 doesn’t make sense, he suggests.  “If we can hold on to our productive workers until 70 or 75, they can continue to add value to the organisation.  Best of all, their experience and insight are available to the younger generation of managers and leaders.  By tapping into that, they can ensure that they don’t make costly mistakes.”  Paul’s vision is having a board of “advisers” (he dislikes the word “mentor” because it sometimes gets abused) who can partner with younger leaders and guide and direct them – you then have the best of both worlds.  Consider the role that the mature generation has played post the global financial crisis, he argues.  “Could one reason that causal factors were the so called modern progressive thinking focused on wealth maximization, and that remedial action was improved governance based on established wisdom?”

“It happens often that when people retire, they set up new businesses – sometimes in competition with their previous employer!  What if the organisation could have kept that intellectual property for their benefit?  I’m sure they’ll see the impact on productivity.” he says.  “And not only that – these members of society remain economically active, contributing to the growth of the economy and saving for their (now much later) retirement.”  An unintended consequence is that young people have less pressure to become economically active immediately and can spend time being creative and trying new things before getting caught in the 9 to 5 drag.

Paul recommends that CEO’s look for opportunities to engage mature employees.  They can be partnered with younger managers and given titles that won’t compete.  Especially within the South African context, where we are facing a dire skills shortage, this could add great value in building skills and sharing experience.   “CEO’s sometimes use the argument of ‘keeping headcount down’ as a reason not to retain the mature generation,” he says.  “They say that these people should leave to make room for the youth, who need jobs.  I think that replacing someone with 50 years’ experience with a person with one year’s experience, makes no sense.  There is a space for both to co-exist, and the organisation will reap the benefit.  The future belongs to our children and our focus should be on creating a better tomorrow for the next generation.”

Paul Cambo Baloyi holds an MBA from the University of Wales, MDP and SEP from Harvard.  Paul is currently the managing director of CAP Leverage Pty Ltd (an industrial holding company).  From June 20016 to April 2012 he was the chief executive officer and managing director of the Development Bank of Southern Africa.  Prior to that he spent 30 years in the Financial Services Sector, with both Standard Bank and the Nedbank group.  His last position at Nedbank was managing director of Nedbank Africa.  Paul has been an independent non-executive director on many boards both locally and internationally, including various African financial institutions.  He was a council member of the Institute of Bankers and served as chairman of the Ned Medical Aid.  Other boards he served on include Old Mutual South Africa, AUSTRO Group Limited, Basil Read Limited (of which he is the chairman) and CAP Leverage Pty Ltd.  Paul also serves on various Board Committees (Audit, Risk, Remuneration, Nominations) as member and chairman.

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