Effectively Engaging Older Workers

Older workers are also staying in the workforce longer. To keep these valuable leaders engaged in the workplace and inspire the next generation, companies need to create inclusion and opportunity for them. Photo: Shutterstock.

Many companies focus on recruiting new talent in the digital age. They want to capitalize on millennials’ and iGen’s fluency with technology and often put career advancement for their older workers on the back burner. However, most companies would not thrive without their more senior staff’s leadership experience, mentorship value, and competence. 

Older workers also stay in the workforce longer as social security benefits change and average lifespans increase over time. To keep these valuable leaders engaged in the workplace and inspire the next generation, companies need to create inclusion and opportunity for their 65+ workforce. 

Understanding the Challenges and Motives of Older Workers

Many employees who have reached retirement age want to continue working, often not because they need the money. Instead, many want to work to stay connected to the community and to foster mentorship roles in industries with which they have decades of experience. However, many have trouble finding their place in the workforce, especially if younger supervisors are unwilling to hire or promote them. 

Younger supervisors believe they will face several challenges with older workers. They are not motivated by the same job rewards as younger people (such as bonuses or promotions), which can challenge younger supervisors on ways to keep them engaged. Younger supervisors may also struggle with the power dynamics of managing older workers, as they may not feel they have the experience or social authority to work, even if they have the workforce experience to do so. 

However, older workers bring immense value to a company, especially to its younger workers. The next generation needs role models of success, helping them see the possibilities in their industry. Younger workers also view their older coworkers as less threatening, as they aren’t competing at the same stages of their careers. This often leads to more cohesive units and less interpersonal competition within smaller teams. 

How To Engage Older Workers

Engagement is the number one challenge for companies developing their older workforce. To bring out the best of your most experienced workers, follow these tips: 

  • Offer flexible scheduling – Many older workers are interested in keeping their jobs for the social benefits and opportunity to mentor the next generation rather than to keep earning a paycheck. By offering flexible and part-time hours to these employees, you can help them retain their experience without discouraging a more relaxed post-retirement lifestyle. 
  • Treat older workers as partners, not subordinates. Many younger supervisors and managers feel uncomfortable working with more senior aides because they do not have the social authority required for their team dynamic. To facilitate this, encourage your younger supervisors to treat older workers as partners rather than junior workers. While the more senior staff member may be in change, they can benefit tremendously from experience provided by their older coworkers. 
  • Provide refresher courses and job training – Older workers are still just as interested in learning new job skills, primarily if they work for intrinsic benefits rather than financial ones. In addition, offering job training, mentorship, and other opportunities for advancement can keep older workers at your company and boost productivity simultaneously. 

Fostering a multigenerational workforce is integral to the success of your company and your industry as a whole. Want to learn more? Check out our workforce development programs here.