AUTHOR: DR STANISŁAW WOJNICKI
Due to the fact that age management in Polish companies has become a more significant issue, which is related to negative demographic trends, clearly presented bythe Central Statistical Office forecasts for the next 20 years, an increased interest in this topic has been observed in research and in publications. Thanks to the PARP (Polish Agency for Enterprise Development) operational programme ‘Human Resources Development’ it was possible to use EU funds for financing relevant research and in the following years many Polish publications have appeared related to this topic, which are available online.
However, while discussing the problems related to age diversity and age management in companies, it turns out that managers – even in HR departments–are unaware of these publications and conclusions formulated in them have no practical application.
I would like to draw your attention to certain significant reasons for this state of affairs.
In order to understand them, one question needs to be asked – what do business practitioners need for solving problems that they encounter on a daily business at work?
A line manager of middle management may encounter the following issues in the field of age management: no efficient teamwork; reluctance to knowledge sharing and sharing experience; no suitable successor in place for the senior specialist who retires; insufficient professional preparation of the young employee/manager, etc. Manager of the functional area or the one managing the whole company, though, apart from the sum of the above mentioned problems, considers issues such as: employment plan for the long perspective due to the new contractor new technology; relations with demanding customers expecting advisory or other support based on knowledge; competitiveness in the selected market segments through innovations or attracting (or maintaining) significant groups of customers, etc.
Generally, line managers in Poland treat Human Resources Management as holding administrative function, rarely understanding real business challenges. In order to get interested by activities proposedby HR, they expect the latter to directly concern issues, such as the above mentioned and they expect them to contain specific solutions, which can bring tangible benefits in reasonable time.
The drawback of those numerous publications on age management mentioned earlier is that they are purely theoretical. What does that entail?
In the years 2010-2013 many books written by multiple authors on age management were created containing numerous overviews of foreign publications and research, including detailed case studies from companies, especially Western European ones. And here is where the first aspect turns up:
Polish case studies are very limited and usually relate to niche companies. In one of the publications one can read between the lines that Polish big companies have either not responded to the attempts to establish contact or refused the detailed information.
Meanwhile, whereas descriptions of specific solutions, implemented in England or in Italy may be valuable, the reality of a Polish company is quite different and what is needed are descriptions of specific Polish case studies. They will also be more convincing to the company manager in Nowy Sącz or Toruń, and will be more suitableto be copied or adopted to the conditions of the certain plan.
Another aspect is a 19th-century-style of the works of numerous Polish authors, i.e.presenting the vast description of each topic, the so-called historical view and a detailed presentation of the previously published literature, which takes up 30% or more of the longer text. As a result, the business practitioner will not plod through the first two pages of such a publication. Moreover, it also does not bring anything new and is de facto a pseudoscientific text: the researcher’s contribution should rely on formulating his/her own new assertions and proving them, preferably on the basis of empirical material.Obviously, not every single text needs to be a scientific publication; yet if it is to be helpful, you need to propose something new, which at the same time can be applied to practice for the benefit of the organisation or the community.
And this is what constitutes the third aspect of the discrepancy between expectations of the business and the majority of Polish publications on age management: no analysis on the real conditions of the company’s activity and proposals of specific activities. In order to present them, one has to ‘touch’ the reality, hold many individual conversations with employees of various levels, analyse the existing processes and procedures and consider the main elements requiring change – preferably together with the stakeholders by means of workshops (although these are also questionnaires and individual conversations that could be useful). Major elements requiring the change need to be considered, and what can be done in order to achieve it. In various companies they can be totally different; therefore there is no universal formula for everybody.
You are very welcome to share your ideas on the above mentioned topics and to share your own experience in this respect.