When the world comes together to celebrate competition at the Olympic Games, there's one information technology company that wins gold for making the gathering possible. While ATOS may not be widely known to the public, the tech giant employs nearly 105,000 people in 73 countries, a truly global workforce that makes the company a good fit for the international games that typically happen every two years.
ATOS — one of the companies that has signed AARP's Employer Pledge affirming the value of older workers — currently has more than 14,000 employees in the United States, each working behind the scenes to ensure that the technologies affecting our daily lives continue to run smoothly. According to Denise Reed Lamoreaux, the company's global chief diversity officer, older workers — referred to as “tenured talent” at ATOS — play a vital role in helping the company meet its clients’ needs, “providing everything from help-desk support to server support to development of software applications and other proprietary tools."
Lamoreaux recently spoke with AARP about how ATOS works to help each member of its multigenerational workforce stay up to date in their skills and able to fully contribute to their team's success. The following excerpts from that conversation have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
Handling tech support for the Olympic and Paralympic games must be extremely difficult. Tell me more about ATOS’ role in helping these events happen.
Lamoreaux: We've been the provider for the search services for the Olympics for 20 years at this point. Anything you see that goes on at the Olympics, ATOS is involved in, whether it's keeping score at an event or making sure the jumbotrons are working. All of that work is done by ATOS. We've developed all of their software applications for [visitors] to be able to use their mobile devices and set their schedules for what they're going to attend at the Olympics. We've been instrumental in developing any of the technologies used in the actual Olympic Games themselves on the part of an attendee, as well as by judges and coaches from the various countries.
It's a huge undertaking. And that team — our team that happens to be in Tokyo — is completely generationally balanced, with representation from all of the different generations as well as 23 different ethnicities and nationalities. So it's a really cool group that's working on this particular Olympics. Plus, we already have people working on 2024 in Paris. They have their own separate team, because we have a team that's assigned specifically to each Olympics. We do the same for the Paralympics as well.
How do older workers — “tenured talent,” as you call them — help ATOS achieve its goals?
Lamoreaux: There's the historical perspective they bring, of course. People in the tenured talent space know the history of the company and were part of making that history. They have very deep relationships with our clients and vendors, and also have skills such as being able to communicate across cultures and across generations. They are able to mentor and guide [less experienced employees] as well as provide training and technology support. Plus, they're good project managers; they're good leaders.
Because they've been in the workplace for a longer time, they also can explain to those who are coming into the workplace for the first time a little about business etiquette: how to properly engage [clients], how to structure a meeting so that it runs effectively. They have some of those soft skills, things that are not necessarily taught in college, that people need as soon as they enter the workplace. They're very good partners to help acclimate the new employees.
ATOS recently launched a program called Bridging the Generational Skills Gap to provide training opportunities for workers age 50 and older. What are your goals for that program?
Lamoreaux: “People now are working 10 to 15 years longer than previous generations did. What ends up happening is in this technology space, it's extremely competitive. Companies expect certifications that are very current. Our clients are looking for certifications that are relevant to the tools and technologies in place today.
As we looked at the countries where we had to pay the most attention to our tenured talent who are potentially preparing to either stay in [their jobs] or exit the building for retirement, we knew that we also had to put together some good reskilling and upskilling courses for them, so that they could stay relevant and advance themselves.
Each quarter, we'll have a different focus about what we want to talk [to our tenured talent] about during that time frame that is really pertinent to the skill set we're looking for. We'll be talking with them about some of our internal opportunities to engage not only from a certifications perspective but also through our affinity groups and some of the learning libraries we have available to us in our learning catalog and so forth, to really help them. Plus, we have a list of courses of the certifications they can take that are available to them free of charge.
For example, one of our affinity groups is called the Return to Work Network, and it's a support system for people coming back to the workplace after some kind of break, whether it's maternity/paternity, illness, or whether it's a second start and a new career because of downsizing. It's sort of a buddy system to help people acclimate, and they have a certain period where there's a person assigned to them to answer questions, give them information so they can go further. That program has been very well received by our people, either coming into ATOS as an outside employee or entering ATOS.
Kenneth Terrell covers employment, age discrimination, work and jobs, careers and the federal government for AARP. He previously worked for the Education Writers Association and U.S. News & World Report, where he reported on government and politics, business, education, science and technology, and lifestyle news.