Summon the elders: Why businesses should not make retirement compulsory

February 11, 2021
Summon the elders: Why businesses should not make retirement compulsory

It is with much surprise that I awoke today to news that consultancy firm, Deloitte, expects its partners to retire at the ripe age of 62.

This is very surprising, when one considers that Deloitte is probably home to more MBAs per capita than any other firm on the planet.

How could this haven for MBA Thinking get this so wrong, given the body of evidence in favour of “modern elders”?

I was doubly shocked because yesterday I was in Port Augusta and heard a keynote delivered by Gihan Perera, Futurist, about the importance of mentoring not just from the top down but from the bottom up, so that an organisation can be refreshed from a diversity of views.

Personally, I find a good mentoring session bottom up to be invigorating.

I also note that a learned colleague who will be bringing many potential students to the Lunchtime MBA, Rick Carter, shared a pertinent quote by MBA alumni, Chip Conley from the book, Wisdom At Work.

Chip asks, what is a modern elder?

Someone who can advise and support young CEOs and managers who could benefit from the insights, emotional intelligence and leadership skills of those who have been around longer. Modern elders didn’t enter the workplace with the same digital skills that have helped many young people advance so quickly in their organizations. So they not only dispense wisdom, but they also seek it, meaning they are students as much as they are sages.

So let me finish off with some real world comparisons about the wisdom our dear elder colleagues can bring to our organisations.

Wisdom from the elders

Here are three simple ways in which elders can bring wisdom to the workplace.


Did you know, most elders qualify for Seniors Cards, enabling them to travel free on public transport between 9.01am and 3.00pm weekdays.

Wouldn’t it make sense for all Deloitte partners who qualify for such, to catch public transport to meetings, thus saving Deloitte much money, while modelling the benefits of frugality to younger consultants?

Buying Time

Did you know, that when you reach a certain age, you can occasionally feign hearing issues so that the person you are talking with needs to repeat the question.

Most modern elders I know have a firm grasp on when and how to invoke this super power, typically to buy time so they can think more before answering.

Modern Elder Tribal Council Models

And our modern elders have entrenched within them, models of tribal councils from the TV shows of their youth.

For example, most modern elders will be familiar with Gilligan’s Island.

In numerous episodes, the cast holds a tribal council to discuss issues and make decisions.

Apart from extending a stay on an exotic island (which I am sure many consultants from the Big Four firms are very good at doing), this gives our modern elders some wonderful role models to emulate.

Wisdom for the elders

And of course, this cuts both ways. The many, hirsute, younger consultants at Deloitte, would get a great boost to their self esteem, were they able to mentor upwards and share insights with modern elders.


Young consultants will be able to demonstrate how to use Hire Scooters to get around town, including the use of over-the-shoulder satchels to ensure balance and freedom of movement.

This could supplement the modern elder’s public transport trip for getting to meetings where public transport doesn’t reach, or for providing low cost transport during peak hours.

Buying Time

Younger consultants will be able to teach modern elders how to interrupt meetings to take group selfies, as a different and possibly less obvious way of buying time, when compared to constantly repeating, sorry, can you say that again.

Modern Elder Tribal Council Models

And, of course, our younger consultants will have had schooling in tribal councils, not just from one TV show but from just about every TV show they’ve ever been able to consume, since the advent of reality TV.

Australian Survivor is one that springs to mind and one cannot but help think that Deloitte boardrooms would look so much more interesting if they were adorned by flaming torches.

And so, on that haunting note about “survival”, we wish the modern elder great luck in the battle against entrenched stereotypes.

You can learn how to apply MBA Thinking, no matter your age, during the Adelaide Fringe at A Lunchtime MBA.

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