Posted: 28 Sep. 2019 02 min. read

How to live a full, multi-stage life

A day with organisational theorist Lynda Gratton challenged me to ask: ‘What happens when the three stages of life- education, work and retirement – can’t be applied anymore?’

Spending a day with Lynda Gratton is a little like an accelerated MBA course – full of big ideas, challenging concepts and surprising facts.

I loved it, as did the group of colleagues who joined me to spend half a day learning about the future of work.  

Lynda, who wrote ‘The 100 Year Life: Living and Working in the Age of Longevity’,  talked a lot about demography and the changing composition of human population.

What struck me was the paradox we live in.  Time seems to fly, yet we live on earth for longer than ever before…  

She challenged me to think about how the traditional three stages of life (education, work and retirement) are no longer applicable – we need a multi-stage life, which fuses education and retirement (recreation) like activities throughout life.  This is essential if we want to live a long, happy life.  

A few facts that stuck with me:

• Age is malleable: 25% of your age is influenced by genetics the other 75% is influenced by the choices you make in life. 

• Exercise is the most important thing you can do to influence a long and healthy life

• Work (unless it is very physical) also helps with a long life – it helps with your financial and social wellbeing, and keeps your mind active, so we need to continue to learn so opportunities to work continue

• Long term quality relationships are a primary contributor to a happy life 

(Note to self: prioritise exercise and relationships, and keep reskilling so I have opportunity to be my best possible self.)

Lynda also spoke a lot about social norms and how many of our traditional ideas or assumptions need to be challenged.

There is no normal family structure, for instance and workplaces and society need to adjust our policies, practices and mindsets to accommodate them and “un-gender” family relationships.

She also spoke of age based cohorts as a myth. There is no evidence to support “baby boomers”, “millennials” etc. They are just stereotypes which fuel bias and poor decision making.  We need to remove assumptions about “age” and “stage”.

She challenged me as a leader at Deloitte and advisor to clients with large workforces in Australia to do more to create the necessary shifts to help people thrive and prosper in an age of longevity.  

Many of us wanted to know who the leading organisations that we could learn from are – and were delighted when she mentioned Deloitte.  

Initially I was surprised to hear her single us out, but when I reflected on it I realised she was right.  

We do many great things at Deloitte:

• We have created a parental leave policy which is inclusive of different families

• We celebrate people who take up these policies and share stories around them – such as our Deloitte Dad’s campaign

• We have a brilliant Deloitte Flex arrangement – which many people use – whether it is taking time to learn, travel or exercise – we aren’t too prescriptive – but we have created ways which people can design a multi-stage career and life

• We have wellness campaigns – such as the current September challenge – which encourages all to exercise

• We have access to incredible thought leadership and learning coupled with the way we work in teams with different levels of experience is akin to a professional apprenticeship 

• Working at Deloitte has been the source of many of long-term friendships and indeed relationships (I am not the only one who met their life partner at Deloitte!)

Of course, there is more to do, and the challenge is to do it at scale – with 10,000 employees in Australia. Lynda got me thinking about the following questions:

• How do I help people narrate their life? i.e. take the time to think about their possible selves and the choices they can make in relation to a multi-stage life and enable that through flexible career models?

• How can we help people explore more? Whether that be their outer world or inner world journey – we all need to continue to upskill and upscale

• How do I create an environment that allows people to deeply connect with one another?

Finally, Lynda who sees herself as a “truth teller”, emphasised that there is nothing in the system we live in which is being shaped by macro forces (technological ingenuity, demography, social norms, politics and environmental) which is actively reducing inequality – in fact, if anything it is doing the opposite. And while she is part of the World Economic Forum – she believes that change needs to be happy at country or more specifically a city level.

So what does that mean for me as a citizen of New South Wales and Australia? What role can Deloitte play in our country? How can we convene powers together to improve how people experience the life in Australia in the future?

Big questions, but the day made me feel youthful and full of a new conviction and desire to improve the world.  

Meet our author

Pip Dexter

Pip Dexter

Lead Partner, Human Capital

Pip is the national leader of Deloitte’s Human Capital practice and a member of the Consulting executive team. She is passionate about making work better for people and people better at work.  The Human Capital practice is a team of over 600 people, working with leaders across industry to improve business performance by reimagining their organisation’s work, workforces and workplaces. Pip and her team combine technology with the human experience to unlock innovation and create meaningful work. In doing so, they provide organisations with their greatest competitive advantage – a productive and engaged workforce that drives greater business outcomes. Pip’s experience spans organisational and cultural change, operating model and organisation design, workforce strategy, strategic leadership, communications, talent management and workforce transition.