Creating Workplaces Older Employees Love
According to a report by global nonprofit Generations, surveyed managers perceive people 45 and older as less valuable hires, yet they speak very highly of those already in their organizations. How can we address misperceptions like these to develop workplaces where older employees thrive?
Making the Case for Older Workers
Why are Bank of America, Walgreens, GM, and Boeing actively recruiting older workers through “returnship” programs?
Lisa Anthony of NerdWallet explains, “Generally, older workers have experience and knowledge that can be gained only through time and exposure. In some industries, it can take years to master a craft. In others, where building a rapport with customers is important, the diverse experience and practiced communication skills of older workers are valuable. Experience can also be an asset in decision-making and problem-solving.”
A 2023 Pew Research Center study finds that of any age group, older employees have the most upbeat and enthusiastic attitude, which can be contagious. “Two-thirds of workers 65 and older say they are extremely or very satisfied with their job overall. Older workers are the most likely to say they are extremely or very satisfied with their relationship with their manager or supervisor, day-to-day tasks, and job promotion opportunities.”
With organizations struggling during the ongoing labor shortage, the Organization for Economic Co-operation (OECD) advises that the participation of older workers is critical for economic success.
Organizations that understand this embrace greater workforce age diversity. According to the World Economic Forum, two-thirds of the rise in US employment between 1990 and 2020 involved employees between 50 and 74. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 17% of the workforce is 55 to 64, while 6.6% is aged 65+.
Employment and Retention Roadblocks
Although older employees increasingly swell the workforce ranks, AARP states, “Over 64% of survey respondents believe workers face age discrimination, while 41% experienced employment ageism in the past three years.”
According to AARP, discriminatory practices often keep older applicants from even gaining employment. “Among recent job seekers, 53% were asked by an employer to provide their birth date during the application or interview process, and 47% were asked to provide a graduation date.”
Building an Age-Inclusive Workplace
One obvious way to attract and hire more older employees is by removing the requirement to provide irrelevant job application data.
According to a Harvard Business Review article, another is for employers to reconsider how they measure productivity. The report cites an example from one manager: “Older food servers might move more slowly than younger ones. But the older workers are more efficient,” making them just as productive.
Jobs that require less physical exertion are more age-friendly, advises the National Bureau of Economic Research. Also, it recommends that employers arrange for greater use of social skills and less harsh environmental conditions when feasible.
What Other Factors Attract Older Employees?
According to the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), “Older workers prefer flexible scheduling, reduced job stress, less demanding cognitive and physical work, less commuting time, and the opportunity to work from home. While these characteristics are desirable for all workers, they are particularly attractive to older workers.”
CEPR also states, “More than half of the current non-workers would be willing to work again if they could choose the number of hours worked and earned the same hourly wage as in their most recent job. About 40% of them would be willing to take a 10% reduction in hourly wage, and about 20% would be willing to take a 20% reduction in hourly wage to work under a flexible schedule if other conditions were similar to their most recent job.
In a Harvard Business Review analysis of data from the Great Place to Work Trust Index, 76% of older workers who would recommend their company to others prioritized a fun workplace.
Fair Employment Practices
How can organizations recognize and prevent age bias?
Syntrio’s “Diversity Essentials: Age” training teaches techniques to prevent and resolve conflicts due to generational differences. It is recommended to combine it with the following resources to offer a comprehensive program:
- An Introduction to Unconscious Bias
- Understanding Bias and Avoiding Common Mistakes
- Micro-Behaviors and Other Messages
- DE&I in Conversations
- Empathy and Allyship
- Introduction to Workplace Diversity
- Introduction to Workplace Equity
- Introduction to Workplace Inclusion
- Month in Diversity communication tool
How can you ensure your organization follows all age-related laws?
Syntrio’s US Workplace Harassment and Discrimination online training uses everyday language to explain legal requirements. Its engaging scenarios and exercises provide positive strategies for promoting a workplace of belonging and mutual respect.
Addressing DEI Training, Unconscious Bias, & Sensitivities in the Workplace
Creating a Speak Up Culture Where Raising Concerns Matter
Essential Facts: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)
Unconscious Bias in the Workplace Awareness: What is Bias?
Why a Harassment Program is Essential for Everyone
Online Diversity Training