the prospect of a pension to finance retirement.
However, for many employees, this dominant role of
tangible assets has been waning in recent years. In
many countries, including the United States and the
United Kingdom, corporate pension schemes are decreasing dramatically both in number and coverage.
But the changing roles of the different kinds of assets
are not just about the reduced attractiveness of the
tangible assets companies offer. In a long multistage
life, securing long-lasting intangible assets becomes
as critical as securing strong financial assets. As a consequence, in a multistage life, the relationship
between the corporation and the employee can no
longer be simply mediated by tangible assets.
Monitoring Intangibles The capacity and opportunity to build a much wider range of assets are
essential factors to a longer working life. The challenge is to bring these assets into the corporate
narrative, and acknowledging and measuring intangible assets is an important first step. At Tata
Consultancy Services Ltd., a large IT service, consulting, and business solutions firm headquartered
in Mumbai, India, there is a focus on understanding
and calibrating productive intangible assets such as
knowledge and skill acquisition. Across the company, an internal digital platform called Knome
enables the firm’s 380,000 employees to track their
skill development, use online training to boost and
broaden their skills, and build their reputation
through virtual badges earned for skills. 10 The credentials are then used to assess the development of
productivity assets across the whole organization.
Cultivating Lifelong Learning As working lives be-
come longer, the need for lifelong learning will
increase. As working lives become multistaged and
the sequence of those stages becomes more custom-
ized, individuals will take an interest in skills with
value that extends beyond the current employer and
sector. This will weaken the one-size-fits-all ap-
proach to learning and development. Instead, there
will be a growing need for more decentralized and
flexible approaches to learning, curated more by in-
dividuals than by employers. Skills and knowledge
that are portable and externally accredited will be
particularly valuable. Longevity will force a shift in
responsibility for lifelong learning toward the
individual. Organizations such as City Lit, which was
founded in 1919 to provide adult education in Lon-
don, will likely see a new spurt of growth.
Supporting Employees’ Transformational Skills
The capacity for individuals to transform will become an ever more valuable asset as employees work
longer and make more transitions in their careers.
Those most likely to make successful transitions will
be those with self-insight and with diverse networks
that provide alternative experiences and role models.
There is much that organizations can do to support
this — such as encouraging employees to regularly
reexamine their own goals and skills, and helping
them develop dynamic and diverse networks.
Tata Consultancy Services’ internal digital platform, for example, gathers data on an individual’s
advice network, in terms of who the person is giving advice to and receiving it from. Using this data,
employees can gain insights into whether they are
building or depleting the strength of their professional social networks within the company by
assessing the extent to which these networks are becoming more homogenous or more diverse. The
aggregate data is also used to influence corporate
policy on encouraging cross-functional and cross-business networks. 11
Bringing Variety to Employment Longer lifespans
will affect how long employees remain at a company in many ways. As careers extend in response to
longevity, it is fair to assume that the percentage of
workers who will spend their entire career with one
organization will decline. Even so, many people
may increase the number of years they remain at a
particular company. The challenge companies will
face with longer tenure is to maintain the productivity enhancement that comes from stability and
continuity while also creating space for people to
develop the capacity to transform. Simply increasing tenure has its challenges. People can become
stale and bored; moreover, organizations run the
risk of generating frustration when people aren’t
able to advance.
There are a number of ways to mitigate this tension.
One is for employees to stay in the job but reshape it by
adding new tasks and skills. Employers, for their part,
can help people transfer their skills to other areas or