In one of the management courses I got drawn, the facilitator asked two groups of people how they would react to a negative performance appraisal. The groups were divided following a fairly simple and general personality test. While one group clearly stated the overarching reaction would be disappointment and sorrow, the other group claimed it would first try to understand why the performance appraisal was negative and if it found no demonstrated evidence of a poor performance, the resulting feeling would defintely be anger. Anger at being incorrectly appraised, even to the point of dismissing the appraisal process and qualifying their appraiser as incompetent, untrustworthy and certainly without any authority. No surprises here.

What happened next caught me totally off guard: the facilitator indicated not only that anger was a very normal reaction but also that this anger could be turned into something positive and constructive. I felt every cell in my body revolt against the idea, while I had in all honesty never given this any thought before. The facilitator saw anger as a source of energy, a sign of self-respect, an individual right, even to the point of expressing it forcefully, as if to liberate potentially harmful frustration.

I was puzzled by this theory. Anyway, as the day moved on, I kept lingering on this very thought. It has been with me, on and off, for the past three months.

My first thought was that anger just leads to wrath and retribution. It’s the theme of many wars and stories, real or imagined. From the Trojan war narrated by Homer to The Dark Knight filmed by Christopher Nolan. Anger clearly produces heroes, short of being gods. Achilles first refused to fight out of blind wrath after Agamemnon had taken his trophy slave Briseis, only to return to the battlefield after his cherished Patroclus had been killed by Hector. The unfortunate Trojan prince was mercilessly slaughtered and his body disgraced, again out of pure vengeance. Leaping to our timeline, Batman is but a mere evolved version. Just like Achilles he takes the right to punish in his own hands, defying superior powers and laws. Surely this could not be what the facilitator was referring to. What else could it be? Could I not think of a clear example where anger over the last 3,000 years transformed into 100% positive energy?

By lack of historic examples, I tried to remember if anger had ever produced something positive for me or others in my personal life. I could only think of episodes where I was stuck in anger, unable to regain control over my thoughts, life and future. Frankly, anger has never done anything for me. I merely lost time, spiralling downwards in self-destructive thoughts. Only when I put my anger totally aside was I able to get on with life. When I look around me, I see anger destroying relationships, families and happiness. I fail to see anything positive. I cannot help to conclude that anger reduces man’s brain to its reptile component, the place where humans are mere animals, and that it is always the wrong place to be.

Over the past two months, thoughts came and went. The whole question slowly rested in the back of my mind till I stumbled on a tweet commenting on Martha Nussbaum’s view on Anger. She defines it as a normatively faulty response that masks deeper, more difficult emotions and stands in the way of resolving them. Anger creates an illusion of control when we experience none. Anger does nothing to address the real problem, which is something in the past we cannot change. It impedes useful introspection and always makes the relationship with the other person worse. If angry thoughts fill up your mental landscape, you will only consider payback or vengeance in one form or another. While the only real way forward is looking for truth and understanding, certainly in the case of a performance appraisal. Anger can never be the right response.

So, Anger continues for me to be the most unhelpful emotion at work and in life. Next time you’re being denied a correct performance appraisal, and this will happen to most of you, seek to understand, let the truth rule, remember how wrong the facilitator was and don’t let anger take you to a place you don’t know.


The Perfect Stranger

In my career I have seen many people struggling to get out of a job what they invest in it. Most of us devote more than time and energy. Our heart and soul goes into it. We breathe our job 24 hours a day.

While we might not exactly radiate pure joy every Monday morning, we chose to pursue this work-life praxis during the best part of our life. It allows most of us to pay the bills, live a normal life and care for the little things in life, like our parents professed. Even if the job is soulless and stifles our very existence, we religiously stick to this pattern as we believe there is no alternative to lead a satisfying, let alone prosperous life.

We dream of more.  More money, to make our life extra-ordinary, more meaning, to quench our soul. We’re convinced that one day, we’ll have a career that not only gives us fulfillment — money, meaning, flow, freedom — but that also has a definitive goal or a clear purpose. Making getting up in the morning a piece of cake.

When we find that job or career, it becomes a big thing. It drives and motivates our life to the point where it defines us. The job or career becomes our identity. We are our job and the job is us. Our dream has become true: we have traded up from money to meaning! Happiness is within our grasp. We have made it. Every second of the day, we’re convinced we’re animating our values in our working life, allowing us to enjoy the little things, as we have the big thing. As we are the big thing. Because the big thing defines the little things.

Is this the dream we need to pursue? Do we need to pursue money and trade it up for meaning?

Rather than hoping to create a harmonious union between the pursuit of money and meaning, we might have better luck trying to combine values with talents. This is not my idea, nor is it recent: Aristotle advised ‘Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation.’ Maximizing our talents and holding true to our values makes us great nurses or exceptional gardeners, web designers or shepherds, musicians or waiters. Exploring our talents to address true needs will most likely result in a more fulfilling and harmonious work-life than any other ambition or motivator.

Still I’d like to add something to this. It is a fundamental need of every mammal on this earth. It’s something we do naturally as children. Namely play. Chateaubriand wrote over a century ago that become a master in the art of living, you cannot draw a sharp distinction between work and play, labor and leisure. A master of life hardly knows which is which. He or she simply pursues his or her vision of excellence through whatever he or she is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he or she is working or playing. To themselves, they always appear to be doing both.

Getting up this morning, I decided to play. You’re reading the result. Because in the depths of winter, I finally realize that within me lies an invincible summer. I’m just making sure I’m not a perfect stranger to myself.



Your Daily Planet

Warning: this blog will not make you a better or happier person.

The environmental impact of today’s proliferation of impulsive, improvident musings on the political, social and economic front by everyone and their dog is hard to overstate. Thriving on Angst, it has globally led to a poisoned and unfulfilled society, expressing its protest and aggression on social media, in national elections or provocative referenda and ever more politically inspired strikes.

This digital pollution in which every factless opinion is voiced is but a sign of a deeper disconnect. Innovation has never been as pervasive, yet progress for all is hard to demonstrate. The way we work has never been as varied and diverse, still unions stubbornly hold on to dogmas from a lost era. Employers scream for well-educated talent, yet gladly robotize their workforce. Governments understand very well that companies do not pay their fair share of tax, yet persevere in slashing corporate tax in a global race to the bottom. In short, our economic model has created over the last 30 years few but formidable winners enjoying unseen wealth while armies of people have been downgraded to a form of dependency on the nation-state.

When humans are lost, they retrench in an ideology or belief in one form or another. As history reminds us, none of them proves to be the answer. While religion cunningly outsources the solution to the after-life, ideologies continue to profess immediate remedies to the woes of the world, trumping Hegel’s ‘Umso schlimmer für die Wirklichkeit’. Humans willfully negate facts to create memes, stories, movements and short-lived dreams that fit their preconceived mindset. Humans believe what they want to believe, not what is true.

Critical thinking and years of experience do not guarantee that out of the many theories currently circling the internet, you will find a fitting solution for your challenge, whether it is personal or work-related.  Am I adding to this digital pollution? Most probably. Is silence the answer? Likely not. Do my words carry meaning in a world where fiction is mistaken for reality? Not really. How then can I help overcome some of humanity’s natural stupidity?

Today I can’t. Even if I were Clark Kent. Tomorrow, who knows?

At first, I did have high hopes for the artificially intelligent robot. Thriving on unlimited data, able to learn from all sources of knowledge, understanding what is true or false, surpassing human’s cognitive capacity and critical thinking by the millions, outperforming humans on all fronts, I had thought I could trust its scientific insight and judgment, sifting through the garbage and mayhem we mortals produce. A better, braver world awaited us.

But then in a split-second doubt overcame me when I considered the intelligent robot one day would read the following: the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe, is that none of it has tried to contact humans. I would have liked to trust the artificially intelligent life-form would have seen the humor of this thought and would have discarded it as irrelevant, as scientifically, our presence on earth is just a blip on the cosmic scale and neighboring galaxies are countless lightyears away, hence making contact impossible. Then it dawned on me that the robot would come to understand that humans are indeed just a blip and that its own life, albeit virtual, in passing data from one robot generation to the next, is potentially endless. Is contacting other intelligent life for AI then just a matter of time? Is the truth out there?

There are things we cannot know. Lies the only real progress in learning to be wrong all alone, as Camus said? Across the universe?


What part of your job won’t be affected by Artificial Intelligence?

Today, the business value of AI consists of generating information from information the business doesn’t have: AI lets the business predict which solution, product or candidate is likely to be most successful. AI uses algorithms making sense out of unlimited data, taking over activities from simple to highly complex roles. If AI has access to data, it performs.

AI will be taking over more than simple or difficult parts of your job. Activities requiring uniquely human characteristics and years of experience are within its grasp. AI is becoming of age: solving many problems on its own and being self-aware. In our effort to create machines able to learn for themselves we not only gave them deep learning, computer vison and all kind of robotics, but also the capability to process natural language and learn through reinforcement. The future business value of artificial intelligence will not limit itself to removing a cost item, like the driver in a self-driving car or a pilot in a self-flying plane. It will come from self-governing, self-aware, autonomous intelligent machines. Mark Riedl and Brent Harrisson, researchers at the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology, have developed an AI prototype named Quixote, which can learn about ethics by reading simple stories. Quixote is capable to reverse engineer human values through stories about how people interact with one another. Quixote as an intelligent entity can acquire any culture into its minutest detail. Just by reading its stories. Humanity and intelligence integrated in a machine, not in a human, with values aligned to the culture it acquired, from stories written by humans, to be read by humans.

Teaching AI to think, reason and act aligned to a value paradigm, is still in its infancy. Riedl is raising Quixote like we raise our children. As we hope our children will grow up to be a better version of us, so are we certain AI will produce a better version of all. Like self-driving cars will have less accidents than humans, so will intelligent machines one day perform better than humans, and this in any role. Although AI has a long way to go, in evolutionary terms it’s right around the corner. The question is not if this will happen but when.

The bigger question and the bigger worry is which stories we will give Quixote to read, which values and culture we want Quixote to align to. Will we have a thousand different versions of Quixote? Will we contaminate Quixote with our irrational thoughts, imperfections and prejudices? Will we just cause robot wars on the social, economic, military and cultural front? Or will every Quixote outgrow the imperfect input and transcend its original origin? Should we start with The Magic Mountain from Thomas Mann, introducing Quixote to modern humanity? or The Illiad by Homer, teaching Quixote that wrath only leads to thousands of deaths?

If Quixote is truly self-learning and self-aware, evolution beyond this problem is not impossible. The intelligent machines might prove to be the better evolution of the human being. They will quickly understand that humans are easily outclassed on all fronts. Not only at work, but also at politics, economics, engineering, etc. Give it fifty years and they’ll be ahead by a century.


Charles’ law

Is the business world similar to the natural one? Is it Darwin all over? Will more than 99% of the companies become extinct, just like the more than 5 billion species that ever lived on earth?

I hear you say no, not at all as most companies adapt and transform to survive. My memory tells me otherwise. I for one and probably you have worked in companies where transformation programs promised deep and fundamental change, just to realize 6 months later that the more things had changed, the more they had stayed the same. Changes in these companies become a cyclical phenomenon, whereby everybody ducks and holds on to their chair, till the winds of change quiet down, only to resurrect with the arrival of a new leader and the circus starts again.

So, if companies transform and survive, how do they do it?

Let’s first look at some traditional mistakes companies who fail to transform succumb.

The most common mistake companies make is changing the players without changing the context. True, you will have players that perform a little better and companies can even stumble upon the proverbial hero who manages to perfect the P&L. True, profit might increase marginally, shareholders might be happy for a day but nothing beyond the quarter has changed. For ninety-nine percent of the workforce, the change goes unnoticed, in their day-to-day job and in its financial and other recognition. Next quarter’s challenge is this quarter’s challenge: just add or subtract a couple of percentages. These companies burn CEO’s, CFOs, etc. and never get to the right team composition, etc. They believe companies are a one-man show and it only takes a great leader to transform a company.

The second most common illusion companies entertain is the belief that a different structure is required as a foundation and guarantee for fundamental change. These companies are likely to reorganize every so often, balancing between centralization and decentralization, hierarchical and flat structures, etc. These changes are nothing more than variations on a theme. I like to compare any traditional company structure to a maze. Replacing one maze with another might bring some temporal relief but is soon to reveal itself as another maze. Employees are very creative on how to overcome the challenges any maze brings but can’t escape the reality of living in a labyrinth. These companies burn so much internal energy that the customer becomes a necessary evil.

The third fallacy relies on the speed and depth of culture change. Based on the premise that great leadership drives different and performant behavior, culture change becomes a given and success automatically follows, right?  This usually is the case in pockets of the company but then you hit the wall of what one former executive I worked with called ‘the middle management permafrost’. Two or three levels down, where reality kicks in and the customer comes into play, changing the way things are done takes iterative improvement cycles, making change a step-by-step process, with minimal impact and hard to notice.  And 20 years on, the same culture is still around.

So, is change a fairy tale? Are most companies just rearranging the deckchairs on their proverbial Titanic? Why aren’t they imitating the successful newcomers on the block?

Let’s look at these young, fast-moving dynamic start-ups who rushed past the $1 billion revenue mark in no time. Latest count stands at 152 private such companies, with Uber coming 1st worth $68 billion (valuation in June 2016). Do they not dramatically change the world of work? Are these not the companies that have overcome the maze problem by organizing as networks, have they not overcome the management problem by giving associates the liberty to work when, where and how they prefer and have they not installed a great and performing culture of work? Isn’t that the fundamental change these companies like Airbnb bring?  or a company like WeWork, who’s raison d’être is ‘workspace, community, and services for a global network of creators’? Have they not changed the game?

I would argue not. Reading Petervan’s blog on ‘cogs in networks’, in which he wonders whether humans are becoming cogs in networks, just like the drivers for Uber, whereby extracting value from the network for the sole benefit of the monopoly results in squeezing the single driver, I see a 19th century industrial organization at work, where associates work ungodly hours for a meager compensation while the shareholder turns into a mogul. I would argue most newly formed companies, who are nothing but a platform, echo the 19th century organizational mentality and have not brought any change at all. These organizations have certainly not brought more humanity to work nor are they defining the future of work. On the contrary, we’re back in the age of monopolies and 19th century capitalism.

So if the newcomers are old school, then what? How do traditional companies adapt and survive?

In my view, successful fundamental transformation only occurs when a new market reality allows a stakeholder, primarily the customer, to impose a drastic power shift on all stakeholders of a company, forcing the company to fight for its survival. Today’s new market reality is mostly, if not only, driven by technology in one form or another.  When the company stakeholders do not accept the power shift in time, as in 99% of the cases, the company in its current setting doesn’t survive.  When they do, the company might survive but in the process will have to undergo a metamorphosis similar to a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly. Change only happens if it is the only option for all stakeholders. If not, it is purely cosmetic, trendy, superficial and serving a political purpose.

So, who is changing the world again?




Untapped Leadership

We all know plenty of companies with an all-white male board, whereby the average age resembles one you might find in a retirement home. It not only makes a pathetic group photo but sadly also stands for a dysfunctional governance model, where a conservative world view dominated by groupthink fails to capture the potential value of the company. Enlisting one or two women as a shield against justifiable criticism only serves as lipstick on a pig. They figure as trophies rather than as leaders. Given the dynamic nature of today’s economic environment, the enormous challenge digitization causes and the speed of change a company needs to keep up with, any board should consist of agile customer-centric leaders who embrace new business models, champion transformation and mothball the old boys network where incrementalism rules. BeBoldForChange, the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, is never something a board will propagate or defend. Forgive me the cheap paraphrase but Boards live by Be Bald and only Change when all other avenues are closed.

The board is however only the tail-end of the problem as it is practically never a catalyst for change. The real issue plays at the executive level and below. There companies clearly do not pull from the fullness of their talent pool. While everybody agrees that diversity leads to better results, the underrepresentation of women in middle and senior management remains striking. Clearly the executives in the last 50 years have lacked the courage and dynamism to address this issue.

The question remains what companies can do to avoid any loss of talented women on the career ladder so gender parity at the executive level comes naturally. Equal career-path development and remuneration are not enough. Nor are reinventing the workplace, CEO commitment and company-wide change programs. Although important and contributing, soft targets and awareness initiatives do not move the needle. The only thing that really signals the commitment of a company to diversity is its direct correlation to pay. Only hard targets, where variable pay is won or lost, will motivate lower, middle and senior management to address the issue. Treating the diversity target the same as a revenue or operating margin target from a reward standpoint is a prerequisite. Missing the diversity target should weigh as strong as missing revenue or operating margin.

There is more companies can do. The traditional leadership style and the traditional performance model are not helping. There’s a strong male bias to both. There is also more that governments can do. Creating the conditions and legal framework for equal opportunities never stops.

I have been lucky in my career to meet and work with great female leaders. I cannot thank them enough as they’ve enriched me beyond recognition. Sadly, I’ve seen too many not get the recognition, reward and promotion they deserved. This blog is for all of you. You represent an ocean of untapped leadership. Forty-five years ago, John Lennon sang ‘Woman is the nigger of the world’. It would have made an obvious piece of music to conclude this blog but today, I want executives to think.

My favourite mistake

All of you know by now that every blog ends with a piece of music. A song that captures the blog, or tries to, even if only by the title. Usually I start looking for a song late in the writing process. Today is an exception. While I was scribbling some thoughts, trying to explore some alternative views on Global Talent Management, the title of this song kept haunting me to the extent that I promoted it to the title of this text. As usual, you will find the music at the end of the blog. It serves as the alfa and omega of this blog.

When I think of Global Talent Management, I think along several longitudinal lines, like global standards versus local adaptation; or talent as understood by US-centric companies versus Japanese or French; or how to balance the individual versus the organization versus the context in which the organization operates; or how inclusive or elitist TM philosophies can or should be; or what strategy, structure and culture versus norms and values for TM means; or simply how diversity management intersects with TM. This and many more cross my mind.

Let me explore some of these axes.

On an individual level, GTM stand for acquiring skills and social, human, corporate and other forms of capital that augment personal competencies and business value. It allows the individual to take on a more complex, better valued, mostly managerial position across borders. If you’re not this type of individual, there’s a strong chance that TM passes you by. If you’re a technical or operational employee, you’re likely to be excluded from GTM processes. There is always the exception confirming the rule.

On an organizational level, GTM must be understood in the context of the company’s strategic capabilities: GTM relates to the strategy, the structure, the culture and the execution capabilities of the company. In short, the company is aiming through GTM to maximize the talent of those employees who are a proven source of competitive advantage and who are occupying critical positions. These 5% to 10% differentiators, these people who make a difference, are part of the GTM processes. Some companies trie to ensure that most if not all employees are aligned with the strategy, support the performance-driven culture and execute flawlessly. They might even have strong talent sitting in non-differentiating roles.

On a contextual level, GTM stands for practices that transcend organizations, networks, nationalities and sectors. It focuses on more than organizational performance. It aims to address societal issues, like diversity and inclusion. The concepts carry a different meaning in a different culture. Diversity as a concept will be very differently understood by a multicultural workforce than just getting to 40% of female employees in managerial roles. Ethnic minorities will define diversity totally differently. Same with the concept talent: while some cultures view this as potential, others limit talent to proven performance.

A specific issue that lies close to my heart is for GTM to solve the global abundance but local scarcity of talent. This is truly a global issue: in emerging economies where talent development is outpaced by the sheer growth as well as in established economies where the baby boomers are leaving the workplace in drones. More diverse, remote or virtual workforces might not suffice.

Global Talent management is clearly not the management of talented employees. Nor is it the management of talent of all employees. It is also not limited to managing skilled individuals expected to fill key managerial positions. It’s also more than cultural fit or shared values.It’s more than expatriation and job assignments. GTM is a complex construct. It relates to individuals, organizations, cultures, values and norms within an evolving context where alignment leads to employee engagement, company growth and societal improvement.

So, is overestimating TM my favorite mistake?


Desinit in piscem

One of the more important reasons HR fails to deliver as a business function is its addiction to fads. The yearly wealth of new leadership theories and books illustrate HR’s desperate addiction to pseudo-scientific management BS. These fads are nothing more than charming trends initiating a gulf of energy and enthusiasm over a short period. Every other day, there is a self-proclaimed guru with a pseudo-scientific theory seducing the gullible HR community into buying an innovative and groundbreaking approach that will significantly improve today’s HR practices, delivering stronger business results and an increase in competitive advantage. Sadly, the guru proves to be another emperor without clothes and the innovative and groundbreaking approach a measure for nothing and at best of transitory value. The business, represented by the management and employees, see HR fail again and hope (which is the opposite of a strategy) that one day HR will deliver on its promise, given enough technology and leadership.

This doesn’t mean we need to reduce HR to ‘quantified thinking’. HR analytics for example isn’t going to promote HR to a valued business function. This over-reliance on data is fast becoming another fad. It clouds HR’s ability to reason meaningfully about the facts at hand and the complex context in which these facts are imbedded. It leads to simplistic indiscriminate thinking and reduces multifactorial problems to one, maybe two but maximum three causes. These truth-making methods work in spreadsheets and presentations but fail in the real world. The business likes it because it’s numeric. The human factor however isn’t easily caught in an algorithm, let alone a number.

Science however is the way forward. A step in the right direction is evidence-based HR management. It is not the holy grail but it should allow HR to deconstruct all the practices that do more harm than good and introduce value-add initiatives backed-up by scientific research and based on a solid understanding of the organizational context, with a strong focus on the values, expertise and evidence of all stakeholders.

One of the difficulties HR will face is convincing the business that evidence-based HR will not remove the need for interpreting the complexity the human factor causes in companies and that despite technology, HR will deliver erratically. Consider the following example: innovativeness and performance of the company are positively linked. While evidence-based HR research might for example uncover that there is a positive and significant relationship between the use of full-time workers and innovativeness, it might also find that training investments on new technologies, languages and data processes do not have any impact on innovativeness . Do you reduce part-time employment and reroute the training investments? Do you embed this finding in a broader data-driven equation on training design? Or do you do hide behind some business process re-engineering with some new talent management tool? Or do you just try to explain the context to the business?

Clearly, HR management has a long way to go to become the business function it needs to be. First thing, it needs to stop adhering to fads and heresies which are like mermaids, beautiful and attractive at first but ending in a fish tail. Still, like Fox Mulder, I want to believe.

Tin soldier

This is not a blog about Trump or Brexit, even though all over the world people are coming to terms with new political realities. It is also not about the existential Angst fueling this political trend. Whether this brave new world will throw us back to the depressing thirties or propel us to prosperity for more than the happy few, is a prediction impossible to make. Politics might just not matter.

The economic future for most of us answers to a different logic. Twenty-five to fifty percent of all jobs will over the next three decades be replaced, not by immigrants as some might have you believe, but by artificial intelligence, dominating the workplace. It will form with globalization the perfect partner in crime to produce the kind of robots taking the bigger half of the intellectual work out of our hands. Understand that there are no future-proof jobs. Artificial Intelligence will affect all jobs, also doctors, lawyers and financial analysts.

This should not throw us in an existential angst. Future-proof jobs have never existed. What is different now is the speed of change. We need to adapt a lot faster than we are naturally inclined to. Most of us are unwilling to do so. We want to hold on to a world of work we know, where we master a well-defined role with a well-defined salary within a well-defined legal, social and economic setting. This privilege is dwindling and will cease to exist for the vast majority.

Future generations will find in artificial intelligence an ambivalent technology. It has the potential to make all of our lives better. It could also widen the gap between the haves and have-nots.

For these generations, we need to fundamentally rethink our education system, how we organize work and reward, what inclusion in the workforce really means and how participation as a valued member of a truly diverse society is organized and rewarded.

But first and foremost, we should let them decide how this brave new world needs to look. We, fifty-year olds and more, remnants of the baby boom, should step aside and give them the keys to the future. This is what this blog is about, not about a tin soldier in a white house.

When I’m 64

Should I envy the new entrants in the labor market for their youth, future and possibilities? The Economist’s fantastic summary of the Future of Work which I used extensively to write this blog, made me wonder. While instinct says yes, reason holds me back. The treshold to enter the labor market has never been this high. Millions of graduates in the EU for all sorts of reasons struggle to find a rewarding role. To fit an employer’s choice today, understanding how costly labor in the EU is, the future looks  harsh. Having the labor market ruled by unadapted laws and practices for the digital economy is one thing. Failing to acknowledge and respond to the challenges is however another.  It is time Marianne Thyssen within the EU framework formulates a long-term plan to bring the world of work into the 21st century.


While national governments, employers and unions complacently lack the courage to structurally reform the world of work, the EU is risking to waste a big part of a generation’s talent. Stubbornly holding on to an antiquated labor market framework while sacrificing millions of new potential contributors is shortsighted and ultimately suicidal. Priviliging the hoardes of spoiled baby boomers who’ll retire over the next decade, isn’t a sustainable policy either, especially when this astronomical invoice is irrevocably passed on to the next generation. If you’re starting your career now, it will be impossible for you to save enough money during 45 to 50 years of working life to fund 25 years of retirement unless you work till 75 years old or more. You are presented with a double bill: paying for your house and family and your future retirement while paying off the retirement bill of all former generations. The blessing or curse of longevity, depending on where you are in your career, is literally a life sentence.


Still, the EU and all other developed nations, i.e. Japan, need a massive amount of employed talent not only to fund the pension gap but also the health care bills for as long as public spending favors caring for the old instead over investing in the young. Although this stream of money, from young to old,  is recently new, it looks like it is here to stay. The political and economic power of the greying generations will guarantee this upstream money-flow. The world of work will have to cater for it. Radical disruptive reform is inevitable. The governments, employers and unions will have to fundamentally rethink their contribution to the world of work. In other words, these 3 wiil need to embrace the future and let go of the past. This will be hardest for the unions as the past is their present raison d’être.


The EU faces another problem: 85% of the young people live in developing countries. The competency level of this you generation is increasing year on year. The developed nations will have no choice but to attract their prime talents and entice them to build a prosperous career as an immigrant. Half of the countries in the EU but especially the UK have monetized the benefits of imported qualified labor. Immigration for all developed nations is no longer a choice, it is a must. While the EU is politically and culturally not ready for this reality, the workforce of its retirement homes just like any other workplace, increasingly reflects the need for imported qualified labor.


Japan is facing this reality more than any other nation today. With over a third of its population soon to be over 65 years old, it is starting to attract foreign talent in a pro-active way. Millennials of developing nations are recruited through targeted websites like flexoffers, promoting working abroad. The EU countries have no other choice. They need to upgrade their workforce with foreign talent. Unifying while harmonising its labor market would benefit all.

The baby boomers are counting on you as a new entrant to the labor market, immigrant or not. You’re likely to live to be a hundred years old and work for more than 50 years, paying off their bills. While they are making your life unfairly tough, they thank you for your contribution. Need I mention that most have retired way before the blessed age of 64 ?