How to Help Older Employees Stay Valuable

But many become less enthusiastic as their careers draw to a close. Indeed, they often feel threatened in an age of youth, technology, and redundancy. Age-discrimination protection measures, however, have forced most employers to be more aware of the issue. A few pointers will help you to consider your situation.

1.            Review your attitude towards the older employee.
It's so easy to regard our older employees negatively—we stereotype them as less productive, less likely to keep up with new developments and technologies, less flexible, more difficult to supervise and train, more resistant to change, more likely to miss work for health reasons, less enthusiastic... Often we reinforce these attitudes by being indifferent towards them. But if you adopt this stance, you are in fact creating a liability your organisation cannot afford.
Indeed, consistent research has found that older people are generally better able to cope with demands and pressures than younger people. Moreover, older people are:
  • more independent in their thinking and actions
  • more aware of others' feelings
  • more socially responsible
  • more adaptable
  • better at sizing up the immediate situation and solving problems
  • able to manage stress better than younger people.
 The researchers concluded:
“Our findings underscore that it is not only wrong to discriminate against older people in the workplace, but it doesn't make any sense as far as emotional intelligence is concerned.”
Seniors are a valuable resource—if you treat them as such.
 
2.           Explore a range of policies and practices.
According to Bob Rosner of Working Wounded, two-thirds of companies say they are not actively recruiting older workers for regular jobs and almost half aren't trying to retain older workers. As well, 81 per cent aren't offering any provisions or benefits designed specifically with older workers in mind.
Rosner concludes: 'If older workers aren't being ignored, they're being discarded. And they're filing age discrimination suits in record numbers.'
For this reason alone, ensure your company policy includes statements to the effect that older employees are valued members of your organisation. Adopt flexible working arrangements, such as job rotation, job sharing, part-time work, flexitime, or using older workers as independent consultants. These options to the working day of older employees can save you money by reducing turnover, and replacement and retraining costs—and help to re-enthuse older workers and maximise the use of their abilities.

3.           Consider adding to the older worker's responsibilities.
Revitalise the motivation of older employees by dangling new challenges in front of them. Expand their work role. Provide them with new responsibilities and tasks. Often it will be in the area of leadership that they can shine. In general, older employees can be expected to assume control, delegate, and make the bulk of decisions themselves. In fact, it is not uncommon to find that Generation Xers and Napsters appreciate such a take-charge attitude. Delegate, not abrogate, leadership responsibilities to this group.
 
4.           Try changing the employee's job completely.
If given the choice of remaining in the same comfortable routine until retirement or of experiencing a completely new role, senior employees often prefer to go out in glory. A couple of years in a new position or on a special project where their experience and knowledge can be better used does wonders for their enthusiasm and self-esteem.
 
5.           Use the employee's experience and knowledge.
Old-timers can always draw on their long experience with your organis­ation to become valuable members of task forces or committees. The stimulation and pressure of working with younger colleagues in such groups often enable your organisation to tap into a dormant goldmine.
 
6.           Set goals with the employee.
A session with an older employee to set personal goals for his or her remaining few years can spur the senior to greater productivity. Ensure that the goals are practical and satisfy both the individual's and the company's needs; that they are specific within preset time limits; that they are attainable; and that they are challenging. Older workers should not be left to feel that they have been 'pushed aside'.
 
7.           Prevent obsolescence through training.
 It is short-sighted to see training as the sole province of younger workers. Training can enhance the older workers' productivity considerably, enabling the company to reap the benefits for several years to come.
 
8.           Provide counselling.
As employees approach career's end, and you want to relieve their pre-retirement anxiety, offer to provide counselling on financial, health, social security, and recreational matters.
 
Smile & ponder …
 
In 1953, Henry Baily Little celebrated fifty-five years as president of the US Institution for Savings in Newburyport, Mass. Respected by his board of directors, Little was asked to serve another term. Surprisingly, he declined, stating it was time for a younger man to assume the leadership.
'So what's the big deal?' you may ask. Well, Henry Baily Little was 102 years old and the 'younger man' chosen to take his place was William Black. And he was eighty-three!
 
It’s a fact:
  • Michelangelo was 71 when he painted the Sistine Chapel.
  • Albert Schweitzer was still performing operations in his African hospital at age 89.
  • Winston Churchill, at 70, addressed V-E Day crowds, standing on top of his car.
  • Golda Meir was 71 when she became PM of Israel.
  • George Burns won an Oscar at 80.
  • Columbus was well into his 50s when he set off on his first voyage into the unknown.
  • Benjamin Franklin framed the US Constitution when he was 81.
People can be creative and productive at whatever age if given the opportunity.
 
Research says

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, more and more people could be going back to work in their 60s and 70s, not because they need the money but because bosses will need staff. Employers will need to change their attitudes towards older workers. Early baby boomers (post WWII babies) will begin leaving the workforce in large numbers in 2006 when they start turning 60. By 2010 they will all be over the age of 60, leaving a shrinking pool of taxpayers to subsidise the age pension and health care system. Accordingly, it is inevitable we'll see an increase in retirement age and/or a growing number of 60-somethings remaining or back in the workforce, whether it be in a full-time or part-time capacity.
 
It’s a fact:
 
In August 2002, one of Australia's largest banks recruited 900 'older' Australians as investment advisers who, according to the then CEO of the Bank of Melbourne (owned by Westpac) Ann Sherry, 'know the difference between good service and bad service.' Sherry indicated that she was inundated with inquiries about the jobs.

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This document does not constitute human resource or legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should contact the HR Help Desk or seek professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content. © Wentworth Advantage Pty Ltd 2017