I just spent an interesting week at a country house outside of Barcelona—read that as a 400-year-old remodeled hacienda retreat with world-class chef included. The week was wonderful, fun and very productive. Let me explain.
I was invited to facilitate a meeting of the top team of a major multinational corporation who were working to create their vision and plans for the next few years. These six executives are from four different countries and are tops in their industry. Collectively their profitable businesses employ several thousand people and generate billions of dollars. From one perspective, this was a typical executive meeting and, while the setting was lovely, we worked pretty much around the clock for three days.
The discussions focused less on growth and money than I had expected. Instead, the group addressed a wide range of social and environmental concerns. At one point, they were looking at ways of being a ‘preferred employer’ and added an element to their vision of creating a ‘multigenerational’ and diverse workforce. I was stunned. None of the group was aware of this blog or my general interest in aging. Most of the group’s members were in their early to mid-40s and all are seasoned business men and women, committed to maximizing the value of their company for the shareholders.
The vision ultimately ended up being about ‘health’ in the broadest sense of the word. They created the possibility of a healthy work environment, healthy customers and a healthy society. Their strategies, both internal and external, encompassed not only fitness, but also a whole range of lifestyle choices. Their products, services and workforce are all aligned to make life for their employees and customers at every age as rich and full as possible. At the end of the meeting, I was moved to thank them for their courage and enlightened leadership, not just as their consultant, but also as a consumer and a citizen.
I have had my share of skepticism about how sincere corporations are when they claim to be ‘green’ or to care about the communities they are a part of. Today, I am renewed in my confidence in business leaders, at least those like these executives who are truly putting their money where their mouth is and who are truly ‘walking the talk’. What I found most encouraging in listening to their conversations is that they wanted to retain and hire older workers—not simply as an obligation or a morally responsible thing to do—but because of their maturity, experience and age. They and their companies are also models for how older and younger people can work together to create a better world that works for everyone.