Having too many mature workers will lead to a skills gap that’s hard to bridge; with too many young, inexperienced staff, a business might not have the credibility to build a reputation with its customers because, as is the nature of youth, mistakes will happen.
Perhaps, the latter was an influence on the new England rugby coach Eddie Jones when he picked his team for the Calcutta Cup match on the opening weekend of the Six Nations tournament.
Before the England team even took to the pitch at Murrayfield, Jones had been criticised for picking a relatively conservative line-up, adopting for experience over youth with a starting line-up containing 512 caps, but no debutants.
After England’s poor showing in last year’s World Cup perhaps you can understand his hesitance to experiment with youth.
And, with a 15-9 victory, it can be argued he was justified in his decisions. But on the flip side, and to keep up the sporting analogy, Sir Alex Ferguson proved the pundits wrong in 1995 when his Manchester United team won the Premier League and FA Cup double with “kids”.
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The same challenge faces entrepreneurs every day and reliance on one group of workers over another can be a real gamble. The makeup of the team around an entrepreneur has to be right for the business and, undoubtedly, that’s about achieving that right mix of youthful determination and time-served experience.
In my business life I have been an advocate for two things, older workers and apprentices. Neither of these things have been by accident as I know the value of both groups of employees to my business. Equally important, I know they can’t truly succeed, and therefore neither can my business, if they don’t work in harmony.
More than 20 per cent of my workforce at Pimlico Plumbers are over the age of 55 and, on the trades’ side of the business, even those who have not reached that age have a minimum of ten years’ experience in their chosen trade.
That is because I only want the best working for me. Not only so my customers get the best service, although that, of course, is always the main priority, but also so my younger employees, including my apprentices, can learn from the best. Investing in the future of a firm by having an apprenticeship programme will only truly bear fruit if it’s part of a business culture where young workers can learn from those around them.
Don’t get me wrong, I truly believe the mix of practical, on-the-job learning and vocational qualifications of apprenticeships do lay the foundations for the creation of skilled and motivated employees.
But put them alongside an experienced and talented member of your team who is not only an expert in their field, but is ingrained in the culture of the business, then a company will only really see the benefits of investing in youth.
Quite simply, learn from the best to be the best. It’s a philosophy I use across my business, not just those working on the tools, but in every department from our garage and call centre through to our accounts and customer service teams.
So while Jones can bask in the glory of his Calcutta Cup victory, there is a danger that if he doesn’t start blending youth with experience he could find his older players soon retiring and not have the chance for the youngsters to benefit from working with the established players.
For a business, that’s never a risk worth taking.
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