Managing an Age Diverse Workforce: Considerations for Human Resource Professionals

Kathy Leck

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The trajectory for most working professionals has been with an expected end in sight at the age of retirement.   But given a number of factors, the majority of working professionals approaching (or surpassing) the age of 65 are willingly remaining in the workforce.  The expected retirement age of individuals in North American has migrated and the cultural shift is representing change in how we view diversity and the work force.

Entry level positions today can be occupied by mature employees who have made a change in their career, or what some refer to as their ‘second’ career.   Managers for the first time in history, can be younger than up to 40% of their subordinates depending on the industry and the local economy.   This shift in the paradigms of age and experience in the workplace makes for a more challenging environment for business leaders.

Advantages of an Integrated Workforce

When there is a good cross section of age and experience within the workforce, there are measurable benefits for the organization.   The industry and interpersonal experience of mature workers can provide valuable insights and with time proven abilities, older workers can share and collaborate with younger co-workers.   New ideas and approaches can be shared enthusiastically while discussing proven and traditional approaches to a problem.

Older employees are already success driven given the tenure of their careers and workplace experience.   Managers may find that they are easier to motivate than younger workers and are often continuous learners, and more apt to share past and new ideas given their experience and their lack of need to compete for the next career step.

Depending on the demographic and the area, finding skilled labor can be difficult.  By opening organizations up to older and more experienced workers, a business can access a greater labor pool than was previously available.  With less people retiring, there are more highly skilled workers who can segue into vacant positions, and can do so with a wealth of practical applied experience.

Steps for Managing Age Adversity in Your Organization

    • Don’t assume all young workers are flexible and idea generating nor all older workers are resting just on their past experiences.  Age rarely defines energy or motivation.  Be careful to stereotype based on age alone.
    • Observe the generational composition of your staff and social dynamic of the groups.  Design teams and committees around a balance of age and experience.
    • Provide adversity training and support for managers to address differences in needs and management style depending on the age of employees.
    • Where possible, offer equal flexibility to employees (i.e., hours, working from home) to avoid resentment between younger and older employees.   Understand that these incentives are universally appealing to employees in your organization.

Changes to the economy and the cultural shift of delayed retirement presents a tremendous opportunity for both business organizations and for those entering the workforce to learn through collaboration.   Focus human resource supports around harnessing the benefits of a multigenerational workforce.

Infographic: What Matters to 50+ Workers – AARP

What Matters to 50 Plus Workers AARP


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