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Handover at work between the older and younger generations to drive innovation

Good corporate culture combines solidity of experience and a new outlook, the strength of those fully familiar with men and machines and the enterprise of those, also with a touch of rashness, try to radically overhaul consolidated processes and routines, the pride in success and the hunger for new experiences. A good corporate culture, all in all, builds original fusions of past and future. This is why the strategy of the so-called “generational handover”, as drawn up by Assolombarda and ready to be applied by large companies such as Bayer, Techint, Campari and A2A, has a basic meaning which goes beyond the albeit important expediency of employing young people. It can be expressed in a few words: employees set to retire in a few years’ time accept part-time work and the company hires a young person. The salary of the older person is cut but not his or her pension contributions (the difference is paid by Lombardy regional funds). The company saves on the cost of labour (the salary or wage of a young person is lower) yet is committed in the long term with the new employee. The part-time older worker can tutor the younger one, teaching him or her a profession. A virtuous cycle in other words. To be sustained either with national legislation (the approach taken by President Hollande in France) or with agreements between companies and trade unions, with support from the regional authorities and intelligent use of EU funds (the policy adopted by Assolombarda and the Lombardy regional authorities, which could soon be imitated by the regions of Lazio, Friuli, Piemonte, Emilia and Marche).

“New jobs are not created, only the existing pie is shared out”, say critics. This is true, but it is a very partial view of things. Because in the meantime there are incentives for turnover, the exchange of jobs. Young people are offered new opportunities: joining a firm and with the possibility of targeted vocational training on the job. For the older people the awareness of their usefulness is strengthened: feeling entrusted with the responsibility of teaching a job can give added motivation to tired-out sixty-year-olds, at the end or almost of their careers. Without counting, moreover, the strength of the original fusions of experience and innovation which we discussed at the start.

In order to restart the tired and often constricted motor of the Italian economy other measures are definitely needed: incentives for investments (also internationally), support for research and innovation, growth in size of firms, credit at favourable conditions, drastic cuts in taxes and useless bureaucracy, efficiency of the justice system (above all civil), infrastructure, quality training, etc. In other words it will take the building of an environment ultimately favourable to firms and, by the corporate world, the assuming of all the responsibilities typical of a ruling class.

In the meantime the “generational changeover”, ready to start, can make a good contribution in this very direction. With a further advantage for Italy as a system: preventing young Italians, possibly with a good diploma or a good degree in their pockets, from going off to seek out more welcoming job markets. A serious loss of human capital, damage to social capital, to be prevented. It would be better instead to keep to the good Italian tradition of making the “young and old” interact and prove once again that tradition and innovation are a trump card.