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[조직문화] The Korea Times 기고 칼럼In Defense of ''The Old

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Who do yout think is more valuable to companies today: the young or the old? Based on my observation of and experience in dealing with large, medium, small, and multi-national companies, I believe that corporations tend to value the young more. This is chiefly because corporations are attempting to catch up with market trends and to become more innovative so that they can lead the industry. The same kind of thinking tends to apply when corporations try to change themselves and their cultures.


Most will agree that harmony between the old and the new is preferable. However, you'll notice that in contemporary culture, what's new is always more expensive, whereas what's old can be thrown away or abandoned. The more quickly the change happens, the more cheaply the old product will be sold. You can see a parallel phenomenon in culture change. Many Korean companies have been trying to change their cultures, focusing in particular on narrowing the generation gap between millennials and older generations. What’s notable here is that millennials' dispositions, tendencies, and traits are treated as absolute, unchangeable qualities, which means that older generations are educated to understand, accept and co-exist with millennials, instead of millennials' being educated to better fit in with everyone else. Understanding a different generation is absolutely desirable; however, there has never been such a focus on the new so far in our country's corporate history.


Thus, in whatever company I visit -- and I visit more than 100 companies a year -- if the corporation tries to change its culture, the older people tend to be devalued, which makes them unmotivated. This can impact the culture change negatively, because when something old is belittled before something new settles in, order and harmony wind up breaking down. Therefore, there should be efforts made to ensure that a correct and precise diagnosis about which part of "the old" has been problematic and which part is worth keeping and should be passed on.


This is why it's so unfortunate that when corporations pursue culture change, they tend to forget the value and potential of the older people. However, any company that has grown has done so due to the efforts of the older generation who consistently stuck with the company and helped it get to where it is now. For example, when I visited a client company, some executives complained about their positions and said, “I have worked hard for this company for decades, and was recognized for my obedience to my superiors. I showed blind loyalty to my company, I worked day and night, I was careful to distinguish between my private and public lives, especially by not socializing during work hours. However, while all of this got me high scores in the past, this is no longer the case, and these values do not make me credible to the younger ones. Of course, since the younger generations do not evaluate me positively, my company also began to devalue me.”


Given this, older generations should not be made into scapegoats, since some of them laid the foundation for the company's growth. Employees who have served for a long time may still hold the core values that enabled the company to grow in the first place, and these values may not be totally useless. Helping these older employees maintain their pride means that the company gets to keep something valuable and benefits from a smoother change process. Culture change cannot occur without the help of "the old."

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