In a recent blog article in Fast Company, Rob Salkowitz discuss China’s awaiting demographic challenge pertinent to its economic sustainability. China’s one child family policy creating the 4-2-1 problem: 4 grandparents, 2 parents, and 1 children. If this pattern persists, China’s workforce will have more elderly and less youth.
This is not an unprecedented phenomenon. Europe and Japan already face this challenge since a decade ago. In Asia, affluent countries such as Singapore is also facing similar challenge. It seems that there is tendency in most wealth and prosperous countries to have fewer children. China, now the world’s second largest economy, is not an exception. The increasing life expectation rate combine with the tendency of marriage delay, or child-less marriage; may contribute to this upside-down workforce pyramid.
What about organizations? I’ve seen similar situation where organizations get into an aging process, just based on the reality that people inside are them are aging. OK, what’s wrong with that? Aging is inevitable, isn’t it?
Yes, people are aging. People eventually die. Organizations, as well as societies and nations, are not the same. They can sustain through generations. Organizations are place where people come and go. But, I’ve met organizations who are aging. They are organizations with excessive belief toward stability and loyalty. As it may sounds good, such belief can endanger the very existence of the organization itself.
Why? Here’s what I’ve learned. First, most of this aging phenomenon was found in organizations with established system, where things seems work just fine for years, and people were ‘loyalists’ to the organizations for quite a long time. Second, they see this ‘stability’ is the most important thing to sustain. I see these two as the signal from the grave. Why? Within these two assumptions, the organization system tend not to hire new people, and rely more on ‘the old loyalists’ and ‘business as usual’ principle.
Such predicament can be lethal, as organization may drowned into the illusion of invulnerability. This is a result of a belief that everything has gone just well for years anyway, and change in renewal is not necessary. The system is trapped in contentment. This may increase its propensity to reject ‘fresh blood’ (such as new ideas and ways of working brought in by new people). The system is not going through a renewal cycle; it’s aging along with the aging people and ideas in it. Contentment, therefore, is what makes the system aging.
As of a nation is aging because it has lesser new generations of workforce, organization is aging by its contentment with ‘stability and loyalty’ which is neglecting the necessity of getting new people. For such organization, a sustainable future is somewhat obscure to define. The system is aging, thanks to the illusion of sustainability.
Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.