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3/4/2021

A Matter of Attitude

Waiting to retire at 50? That’s not an option for Klaus-Peter Mikulla. The logistics expert is passionate about Beiersdorf, his job, and the generation 50+. Together with six colleagues, he initiated a community that focuses on this age group.

Portrait Mikulla

Demographic change has arrived in Germany – every second person between Sylt and the Alps is now older than 45. Most countries in Europe are going through a similar development. Low birth rates and increasing life expectancy are the reasons behind it. Further, it has consequences for social life and the job market, in Germany, next to other things through the gradual extension of active working life to 67 years of age (from 2024). “There are 17 years between the age of 50 and retirement. That’s a long time that needs to be filled meaningfully,” stresses Klaus-Peter Mikulla. Mikulla, who is now 61, has been concerned about this issue since the abolition of traditional partial retirement around nine years ago. With much support from Beiersdorf and a lot of passion, he and six colleagues founded the “New Generation 50+” community in 2018 and hit the bull’s eye: the group now has around 230 followers – and the number is rising.    

Diversity makes teams incredibly successful

The “New Generation 50+” employee community found a home in the Diversity & Inclusion department. And it is no coincidence that this community resides there. The approach states that teams are particularly successful when different personalities, cultures and age groups work together. But as it is so often the case, the theory can be challenging in practice. When researching the 50-plus generation on the job market, one quickly ends up with prejudices – inflexible, less motivated, with little affinity for technology. Klaus-Peter Mikulla knows that this is usually not the case: “We want to work on breaking-up such myths. Someone with experience wants perspectives just as much as younger colleagues. I’m sure there’s a lot of potential here that just needs to be uncovered. Of course, there are people who have lost the fun in their work over the years. But this is often due to accompanying circumstances, such as commuting or the desire for flexible working time models. That’s something that can be worked on.”

Klaus-Peter Mikulla and his allies have set out to identify opportunities and actively shape the future. For this to succeed, a paradigm shift is needed on all sides. With an intergenerational speed dating event, “New Generation 50+” helped probably the most crucial prerequisite, being open to others, even before COVID-19. The concept was very well received, reports Klaus-Peter Mikulla: “We are currently considering a virtual version in breakout rooms via Microsoft Teams. If the pandemic allows it again, face-to-face speed dating will definitely take place again.”

Connecting with other companies

Klaus-Peter Mikulla and his six colleagues can use four hours per month of their regular working hours for their commitment. A time that the team uses in a targeted manner. For example, the colleagues are currently working on setting up an information hub that looks at the topic and provides valuable tips – on nutrition, sports, further training and new technologies, but also on a gentle exit from active working life. Additionally, “New Generation 50+” is cooperating with other companies such as the Otto Group. “We work on the same topics, are in close dialogue and cooperate with the Demography Network (ddn) in Hamburg", reports Klaus-Peter Mikulla. Together, the partners have already founded a "meta-network” for collegial exchange – aiming to recruit other companies for this purpose. The interest is great, and he adds: “Many want to set up something just like us. We pass our experience on, for example in online workshops.” 

Generation 50

New working time models: a topic for the future

Because everyone is getting older, the organisation of working life for people over 50 is and will remain a hot topic. This is one of the reasons why “New Generation 50+” is happy to welcome younger colleagues who want to get involved. “We are shaping the working world of tomorrow and are part of New Work and the associated structural change. Future generations will benefit from the changes we create today,” says Klaus-Peter Mikulla. Here, he thinks about the new concepts such as working in job tandems. As a diversity expert, Christina Braase encourages colleagues to open up to this working time model, and she helps to search for the perfect match. “We already have tandems who work together very happily and successfully. It’s still the exception across generations, but I’m convinced that this model, for example as a succession tandem, has a future and offers many opportunities – also for the company.”

“Engaging with new things keeps you young”

Curiosity and lifelong learning are probably the most important fuel that makes a working life permanently fun. For Klaus-Peter Mikulla, this is a question of attitude: “Those who are old in mind usually were so in their youth as well. The brain muscle wants to be moved just as much as the body. Engaging with new things keeps you young.” Further, older colleagues often bring with them advantages such as knowledge built up over many years, functioning networks, prudence and a high level of social competence. Connect all of it, and you have a 50-plus employee who is an enrichment to the corporate culture, thus worth his or her weight in gold.

“New Generation 50+” is happy about interested and active followers on LinkedIn.

 

Why Diversity & Inclusion is important to us

Why Diversity & Inclusion is important to us

Diversity and Inclusion play a core role at Beiersdorf. It enriches us and makes us successful as a business.

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Diana Lühmann

About the editor: Diana Lühmann

Since autumn 2019, Diana has been responsible for corporate communication related to HR and inspiring people at Beiersdorf. These include the areas of Diversity, Learning & Development, Career, Leadership, and Health. Previously, she was in charge of R&D Communications and explored the exciting world of our research and development.