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Archive for February 2011

Seniors at work, a win-win alternative.

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Seniors as mentor for juniors

The belgian business magazine published recently an article about a survey organized by Acerta Marketing Intelligence, about seniors employees. It appears that the trend about the work of the seniors is progressing on a positive way. Indeed, around 33% of companies are considering to keep the collaboration with their talented senior employees for a longer time and extend their active life. This is a positive sign given by companies, showing a change of mentality and vision. There are of course legal restriction to the extension of professional life, but some possibilities are existing and could be interesting for the economy.

These time, most of countries have to face with the problem of retirement and the payment of pensions. The proportion of retired people compared to active people is increasing and in a few years, the payment of pensions could be an issue. But the increase of retirement age is unacceptable for some politics and for trade unions. They consider that people have merited to stop to work and to let the jobs to the youth. We can agree on such view, but does it mean that everybody is happy to stop working?

The extension of the professional careers could be an advantage for the economy and for the people too. Here are some positive points:

  • The freedom to still work. Some people enjoy to work, because they like their job, and they always look for learning and progressing in the live. The age of retirement is something subjective. Age is a question of mind. There are people who are still young in their mind even if they are sixty years old.
  • Benefit for the health. Some studies showed that people pursuing a professional or a volunteer activity have a better psychic health. They can still work on a project, concretize a goal. Nicolas Hayek, the founder of Swatch, was used to say that like the artists, the entrepreneurs will never be retired, they just move to another function. Each people has to be the entrepreneur of his life, and should be allowed to continue a professional activity if he is still motivated.
  • The flexibility. The Seniors who want to continue to work, would maybe work on a part time basis, which could match with the needs of companies. The companies could contract the seniors for specific projects needing only a part time activity. This flexibility should be a win-win deal. The companies would benefit from the expertise of the seniors following their needs, and the seniors could still contribute to the economical activity and to maintain a positive work-life balance.
  • To act as a mentor. The academical background is important to face professional challenges, but the years of experience is also an asset. In a fast moving environment, we have to learn everyday. The seniors could contribute positively to the juniors career development. The juniors learned other things at school or university and will have different approach than the seniors. On the other hand, seniors have a lot of practical experience, giving the advantage to anticipate and to be more pro-active in certain situation. Seniors have more experience and knowledge, juniors have ideas and technical skills. By working together on a project, they can combine their competences and provide innovative and added valued solutions.
  • To share enthusiasm. By working with the juniors, the seniors who are still motivated to work, will show their motivation, their enthusiasm, what will be an example for the junior. If work is considered as a constraint, your life will be worse than the hell. First you have to chose the job you like, and to get the change to work with inspiring people.
  • A complementary financial revenue. The retirement allowance are lower than the paid salaries during the professional career. If a retired people can earn a complementary revenue, he can still maintain a certain level of life, which is positive for the economy. He can still contract services contributing to his wellness. In Belgium, a important part of the retired people are living under the poverty level.

The possibility to continue to work is an interesting and positive alternative which should be given for those who wants to continue to work. Work should not be seen as an obligation, but also as a right. Work is often seen as a constraint, but our life is full of constraints. The challenge of live is to live with these constraints and to be creative to face them. By learning from the constraints, we are reaching the freedom, the freedom to chose our constraints.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

February 19, 2011 at 23:55

What is precisely a consultant?

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Team of consultants

Most of companies are contracting consulting services in different areas for specific needs, in IT, tax, finance, marketing..etc. They are using outsourced services for punctual needs, and because they have no in sourced people having the skills for these specific needs. During my career, I had to note that the word “consultant” was used for different type of profiles, and I would say in certain cases because it sounds better.

What’s precisely a consultant ? If I am asking that question, it is after reading a Peter Drucker’s quote saying that “ The true expert is the one who is doing the work. We must accept the fact that the one who is doing the job knows better about it that the one who is supervising, or in any case that he knows a different aspect about it”. It make me remember the first assignment I had as interim manager. We were two selected candidates for a senior accountant ad interim position. Finally, the customer decided to contract my services. The financial director who took the decision explained to me that he was more interested by my profile, because the other candidate was somebody who would explain how to do things, and in my case, I was the person able to do things. I remember a partner from a IT company where I worked some years ago, who used to say that he was not a consultant but a “practitioner”. This view meets Peter Drucker’s quote.

A consultant or an expert is somebody who has several years of experiences and who can give advices or execute missions and projects, based on the knowledges and the practices he acquired. If you ask to a consultant some advices about something he has some theoretical knowledge, you will probably not have an appropriate solution, and you will probably not learn more than if you have read some books about the subject. I remember a customer advised by a consulting company for an accounting software. The advised software did not match with the needs of the company, and the invoice that the consultant sent for the advice was ten times more expensive than the price of the software we had needed. The advice was given by a big consulting company, but I am not sure that the consultant did daily accounting during his career. More generally, there are different ways to obtain a result. But the result is not the only target to be taken into account. The way to reach the target is important. Processes in companies become more complex and need more expertise in order to control them. Some processes, methodologies will be more efficient than others. But only a expert having experiencing these processes will be able to give the appropriate advice. The different processes in a company include sub-processes, and improvements at each level can produce significant results in term of efficiency and profitability.

The most important is not to answer what is precisely a consultant, what are the range of services he is supposed to deliver. A consultant or an expert can only provide services linked to his experience and skills. The experience is another important parameter. In a fast moving environment, people have to adapt their methodology of work and their knowledges. The number of year of experience make that you integrates some processes or knowledge, and you can adapt yourself in a new environment faster than somebody having less experience, you can transpose more easily some methodologies in new environments.

What is precisely a consultant? In any case somebody who will provide the appropriate advices, answers or services to the customer and who will make him satisfied.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

February 10, 2011 at 23:41