Mercedes-Benz is getting serious with ‘YES – Young and Experienced together Successful’ its Demography Initiative. Certain conditions need to be met in order to achieve a successful cooperation between young and experienced. The first: dispelling prejudice and creating a management culture in which a human being takes centre stage.
In parallel with the ‘EY ALTER – time to get to know yourself’ exhibition in the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, the company has organised 122 events for a total of 2,360 managers. The aim: nothing less than promoting a fresh, unprejudiced and realistic view of ageing. That’s because in many companies and production sites in Germany and Europe the long-standing view is that ‘A young person equates to high-performance’ and, ‘An older person equates to less efficiency’ is still widely held. This opinion is not scientifically sound.
Prejudices about and in particular regarding age or so-called stereotyping of age are prevalent – and they are dangerous. It is in a professional context in particular that they often led to age discrimination. Set against the background of demographic change, with proportionally increasingly older employees, companies can increasingly ill-afford this erroneous view of seniority and ageing and the misjudgement of the productivity of young and experienced employees. Spring chicken? Old hand? What does that mean? And is it not about unlocking employees’ completely different potentials – this should be encouraged instead of being nipped in the bud?
From the loss-making view of ageing which focuses on processes for dispelling prejudices and makes generalisations about them through to an emphasis on individual potentials and competences – this is the path Mercedes-Benz is taking within the framework of the YES Initiative. Only this path is not smooth. Obstacles need to be overcome. Traditional ways of thinking are usually hard to dispel; changes in attitude and a cultural shift require time. With its YES events for managers, Mercedes-Benz used the personal experiences made possible through the EY ALTER exhibition and stimulated discussions and a changing of views.
Here is the conclusion from the YES host from Rastatt, Gerd Hens: “If managers say: ‘Now it is up to me to do something tangible about demographics,’ then we have reached our first milestone.” There are plenty of ideas for age-appropriate management with a strong interplay between the generations: enabling mutual learning, providing young and older employees with the same opportunities to prove themselves, encourage knowledge transfer – and, of course, be an example themselves and to stay with the issue! In the same vein, YES host Ritika Kochar from Bremen adds: “This was only the beginning – now managers can pass on the YES message to their teams.”