Intergenerational models after Covid

Intergenerational models based on innovation and knowledge exchange are the key to the UK’s future productivity.


Both the young and the old suffered disproportionately during the pandemic, with many dropping out of the workplace, but intergenerational models could help address the issues facing both groups, according to a leading expert.

Professor Gillian Youngs’ commitment to intergenerational models of working comes from 20 years in teaching innovation in the digital economy. She says the Government is failing to embrace digital innovation and is clinging instead to the industrial model of previous centuries which is no  longer appropriate for the 21st century.

Youngs, Visiting Professor of Design and Digital Strategy in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Greenwich, says that Covid has resulted in a myth about digital transformation. “That’s not real digital transformation,” she says. “Most of what has been going on is more about harnessing digital technology to traditional industrial models.”

She talks also about ‘digital slavery’ – people being on zoom calls eight hours a day. That is not the innovation that she thinks could unlock the potential of workers of all ages. That involves a more entrepreneurial approach based on risk-taking, genuine hybrid and flexible working and the embedding of health and wellbeing into workplace practice. 

From job shares to knowledge exchange

She would like to see intergenerational models, for instance, job shares involving an older worker and a younger worker. The younger worker would be a digital native while the older worker could provide mentoring and business and life experience.

Covid, she says, has brought a greater focus on our ageing population and has left many young people in jobs where they have had to learn the ropes remotely. They need guidance and mentoring to build their confidence, says Professor Youngs, as well as support to build work-based relationships.

Professor Youngs says that much of the current focus on multigenerational working is on inclusion and equality, but for her it is more about productivity. “Intergenerational models are the core of our future productivity,” she says, based on different perspectives and older people passing on their knowledge.

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