By Mimi Henninger,
SPHR, Human Resources Consulting Division Manager,
AmeriBen / IEC Group
A couple of years ago, the news was all about the Baby Boomers reaching retirement age and the estimate that our work force would shrink drastically as this generation started turning 62 and headed out to enjoy some golf. Then the economy took a turn for the worse and many Baby Boomers looked at their retirement savings, did a reality check and decided to stay in the job market. According to Money Magazine, 72% of workers age 60 and over are putting off retirement because they don’t have enough saved to fund their retirement. Lack of savings is not the only reason workers are staying on the job past 60. Other leading factors include enjoyment of their jobs and feeling needed at work, the need for health insurance provided by the employer and the feeling that retirement would be boring.
Studies show that older workers are loyal, reliable and able to keep pace with their younger counterparts. Employers have a real opportunity to benefit from this group if they provide an environment where the older worker can thrive. Conflict and misunderstandings can arise however, as a younger generation steps in to manage this aging population. Some tips on managing the aging workforce include:
Don’t stereotype the older worker – Older workers are individuals just like everyone else in the work group and should be treated as such.
“Old” is relative – What motivates and drives a worker of 55 may be very different than what motivates and drives a worker of 70. Don’t lump your older workers together and assume they are all the same or that they all have the same needs.
Communication is key – Older workers do not have the same background as their younger counterparts; they might not see things the same way. It is important to communicate expectations often to make sure you are understood. Be very clear on what you want done and what the measurements of completion and of success will be.
Value their life experience – Older workers have a wealth of knowledge and experience. Let them coach and mentor your younger workers who can learn from their past experience.
Train them – Although you may assume that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” studies have proven that older workers are just as trainable as younger workers.
Understand what motivates them – Motivation is not one-size-fits-all. Different employees are motivated by different drivers and this includes your older workers. Get to know them and find out what motivates them.
Be Flexible – While not all older workers want or need flexible hours, many do want the opportunity to stay in the workforce, but work shorter hours. Consider this option, as it allows you to retain their talent and technical skills. Flexible hours can be a win/win for you and for your older workers.
Older employees are here to stay. It is up to business leaders to take the lead and create the climate in which older workers will remain engaged and productive.
— AmeriBen IEC Group
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