by Megan McGraw, HR Consultant ELAR Horizons
Due to increasing life expectancies and decreasing birthrates worldwide, populations are aging, and older workers are making up a larger percentage of the workforce. As more workers reach retirement age, a skills and knowledge shortage is being experienced by many organisations, making the attraction and retention of older workers increasingly necessary to ensure ogranisational functionality. Key in catering to older workers is focusing on their happiness and wellbeing, through understanding what facilitates their desire to continue working, their needs, and what barriers they may face.
Why do older workers want to continue working?
The reasons will vary from person to person, however there are several common reasons why older workers want to continue their employment. For some, the reasons are primarily financial, as a way to supplement their retirement savings. For many older workers, continuing employment helps achieve personal goals, as well as constructing a positive self-view, validation, and a sense of competence, which are all crucial aspects of wellbeing. Working also fulfils a need for social interaction, and helps maintain an active lifestyle, which has been tied to reduced risk of sickness and mortality.
Providing training and development opportunities
Older workers are not only motivated by the opportunity to utilize their abilities, but also the prospect of passing on their knowledge and gaining new skills, which should be recognized in opportunities for training and development. Mixing younger and older workers can be beneficial for both, as it creates an exchange of skills and knowledge. This teamwork may also prevent physical and cognitive decline, and create higher levels of satisfaction and engagement.
Tailored job design
Job design will have an impact on employee happiness and wellbeing, and should be reassessed to address the needs of older employees. Flexible working arrangements can be appealing to older workers, as working patterns can be adjusted to meet their needs. This can include flexible hours and working from home, as well as job sharing and part-time employment. Some older workers may also prefer “bridge jobs” instead of continuing full-time employment or choosing to fully retire, which will generally involve less payment but also decreased levels of stress and responsibility.
It is important for organisations to address misconceptions about older workers, as well as update their policies and procedures, in order to tackle issues that could lead to discrimination. Age should be taken off application forms, recruitment materials should include age-diverse imagery, and references to age should be removed in job descriptions. Training can be given to employees (especially managers) regarding age-related discrimination and harassment, along with information on how age legislation can affect the areas of recruitment and selection, training, retirement and promotion. Focusing on these issues will have a positive impact on older workers’ relationships with the organisation and their coworkers.