We run into them all the time. In the markets, shopping for provisions; in the bookshops browsing through classics; at the traffic light, observing vehicles around them while waiting for the light to turn green; at cafes, indulging in sudoku while sipping coffee; in the parks jogging early in the morning; and even at art exhibitions, book launches and film screenings. They are fit, smartly turned out, conscious about their health and eager to keep up with the changing pace of life. They look at the youngsters with amusement and admiration. They have learnt not to interfere with them, but at the same time, have a great degree of understanding of the younger generations too, through sheer observation and limited interaction.
A lot has been discussed and talked about the Millennials and Gen Z — their habits, choices, free spiritedness, tech savviness, lack of discipline, and of course the way they function with the older generations at the workplace. The pandemic affected all the generations in some way or the other. While the newer generations had it easier, given their familiarity with technology, there was another lot that also caught up, albeit a little slowly — the perennials. No, this is not the ‘sunset club’ comprising the older generations, it is a category of people with a specific mindset that can best be described as ‘ready to flower irrespective of the season’. They do not subscribe to any specific generational characteristics or traits.
The term, ‘perennials’, was coined by Gina Pell, fashion and tech entrepreneur, back in 2016, to refer to people of all age groups who have the urge to stay relevant and the spirit to challenge the boundaries of their generation. There is a tendency to categorise professionals above the age of 55 as perennials. However, the truth remains that this group of people defies age and is continuously evolving. While the term has nothing to do with age at all, it definitely has everything to do with attitude and mindset. When it comes to the workplace, the perennials are the ones who know the working of the organisation inside out. They uphold the values of the organisation and believe that these values are the key to the organisation’s success. They are practical, curious, confident, reliable, creative, understanding, knowledgeable, and above all, experienced. They are team players, have the maturity to get along well with everyone— irrespective of age — and are ever willing to learn and take risks.
With the pandemic having paved the way for the gig economy to prosper, it is time for this ‘ageless generation’, to make the most of the situation and shine. Unfortunately, they tend to be ignored in the corporate world.
What works in their favour?
For one, this is an ever-growing class of people. There are many things that work to their advantage, especially with the remote-working culture in place. Some of them may have opted out of the mainstream, but realised they have enough time in their hands to contribute in some way or the other.
They wear their wisdom streaks with pride: They may be greyed, but they have years of wisdom to back them. They flaunt their greys, wisdom and experience. They are informally available in big numbers, for consultancy and advice. May be it is time to engage them formally and pay them for that advice.
They are minimalists and far from demanding: Unlike the newer generation, the lack of technology or the dearth of the latest version of machines and devices does not bother them. They believe in action and the right approach. They can do without swanky offices, and are more than happy to avoid the daily commute to work. So, work-from-home is most suited to them.
They make great teachers: They are willing to learn and more than willing to teach and share their experiences. They are a source of inspiration to others and therefore, they are capable of spreading a culture of discipline, tolerance, respect and growth. Mentoring is right up their alley. Their skills can be utilised in training and coaching new hires.
They are always eager to learn: They may take a little more time to get used to technology, but once they do, they get hooked. Haven’t we experienced it with the seniors in the house? They took time to get used to Facebook and WhatsApp, but now they are on it all the time, posting pictures and gathering ‘likes’.
Their focus is on performance: They believe in doing their best and have their minds and eyes set on the goal. So what if the meetings have shifted online? They will learn to accept this new mode and also be present online on time.
Appearances rarely bother them: This lot of people are ideal for online work, especially women, as it is their performance that defines them and not the way they dress or conduct themselves. They are free from the pressures of having to appear young, smart and fashionable.
They are happy to work from home: Unlike the restless younger lot, they are comfortable within their familiar surroundings, and happy to work from home. They are not yearning to connect with co-workers nor are they missing the smoke or coffee breaks. Rather, they are a calm and disciplined class of people, which believes in meaningful work, as long it is well accommodated into their daily schedule.
Many organisations abroad have realised the potential of perennials, and have even made changes to their workplaces to accommodate their needs. These measures have only given them great results.
There are perennials willing to work in night shifts too. Apparently, almost one million night shift workers in Britain are above the age of 50. Interestingly, studies have shown that this age group accounts for the growth in night shifts witnessed in the past seven years. Their contribution has been so significant and recognisable, that at least a third of the night shifts in Britain are being worked by this age group.
All said and done, the needs of all generations are more or less the same. They wish to grow, prosper and find a purpose in life. For the perennials, a flexible work schedule and a chance to work from the comfort of their homes, is worth grabbing with both hands. They may require some training, especially when it comes to using technology and the latest gadgets. They may also require a little investment in terms of ergonomics, but then the comfort of the workforce is anyway topping the list of priorities for corporates these days. It will not be long before companies begin to realise that this is a worthwhile investment with promising returns. After all, this is the tribe of people with the most potential to propagate ideas and push commerce.
Most importantly, it is time for each one of us to cultivate the ‘perennial’ mindset. Even teenagers, students and housewives can develop this mindset and learn that growth can happen throughout life — one only needs to be ready to bloom, perennially.