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Janine Milne

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In a Nutshell: Five ways to make the most of your older workers


The UK’s working population is aging but attitudes towards older workers – despite legislation – are taking a long time to catch up with the change.

Therefore, Dianne Bown-Wilson, who set up consultancy, in my prime, to help address just such issues, shares her top tips to help employers get the most out of their older personnel and ensure that they are both happy and productive:
1. Don’t make assumptions
Older people don’t suddenly morph into a single homogeneous group with shared abilities, aspirations or attitudes simply because of their chronological age. You need to find out on each individual employee wants, needs and feels in relation to their current and future situation.
What you will uncover is a far more complex and surprising situation than you would ever have imagined.

2. Don’t confuse chronological age with other factors

Attitudinally and behaviourally, some people are old at 20 and some never age. In fact, many factors that we associate with older poeple in the workplace are largely unrelated to age.
For example, a lack of interest in training may be due to lack of confidence, a lack of enthusiasm for new projects due to boredom and an overbearing attitude due to insecurity.
All employees can demonstrate these and a whole raft of other challenging behaviours at any given time – they have little to do with age.

3. Work hard at building trust

It’s a regrettable fact that, because of a combination of ageism which is inherent in our society, and the current economic situation, some older employees may feel insecure and defensive about their position and how they are viewed by managers and colleagues.
The only way around this is to show that they aren’t being singled out. So treat them in the same way as everyone else and make it clear that their contribution is valued and they themselves are respected.

4. Find ways to make their work interesting

Many older employees don’t necessarily want further promotion and may be content to continue in their current role. However, in order to avoid boredom, complacency and stagnation, it is essential that you jointly find ways to ensure that their job is kept fresh and interesting and that they are presented with new challenges.
Once again, age has little to do with this scenario – it’s all about ensuring that each individual remains engaged.

5. Ask older workers what they feel they can contribute

Unfortunately, many employers and HR professionals all too readily make assumptions about what older people want and need and what they are able to contribute. This stance often leads to missed opportunities in terms of developing them in ways that could benefit the individual, their colleagues and the organisation as a whole.
The experience that older workers have gained over the years means that they are frequently very good at identifying both what could be done and what is likely to work. So ask their views, frequently, and benefit from their insights.

One Response

  1. great post

    It is an interesting point about ageism in the workplace. It is important that managers an team leaders who may be considerably younger than some of their employees or who may have older employees, do not assume that they are not able or willing to work hard as everyone else and do no have ambition. It is also important not to blame any mistake or poor performance simply on the fact that an employee may be older. 


    Dave Evans, commercial director at accessplanit, specialist in learning management system and learning management software. 


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