Cheese, wine, blue jeans, cast iron … there are lots of things that get better with age, but older workers aren’t typically included on the list. Whether they’ll admit it or not, many employers perceive older workers as less flexible, lacking current skills, more likely to demand time off, and more difficult to train. And with employers focusing on hiring millennials and Gen Zers, older employees often fall off the radar.
But the reality is that people are living longer, healthier lives, and the prospect of outliving retirement savings is a real possibility for many. Whether for financial and social reasons, an increasing number of retirement-age employees want to continue working into their golden years. And with an aging population and a shortage of qualified employees, employers looking for skilled workers should be considering ways to actively recruit older workers. Mature employees have years of experience and training, are less likely to job-hop, and are more inclined to mentor younger employees. They’re also more likely to be able to hit the ground running and be open to considering part-time employment.
The bottom line? Older workers have a lot to offer! Here are our top 5 tips on attracting, retaining, and engaging mature employees.
1. Watch your bias. We know that it’s illegal to discriminate during the hiring process based on age, but that doesn’t mean it never happens. Avoid making biased decisions by placing less emphasis on the dates on their resume, and more emphasis on whether they can do the job. Just because a candidate graduated decades ago doesn’t mean they’re ready for their swan song. Remain impartial, and rank each candidate based on their actual experience, education, and relevant accomplishments. A good general guideline to follow—if it’s not relevant to the job requirements, you shouldn’t be measuring it!
2. Provide relevant training. Older workers often get a bad rap for not being as technologically literate as their younger colleagues, but their years of training and experience in other areas more than makes up for it. As with any employee, investing in training older workers equals not only improves work performance, but also increases engagement and improves retention. Target your approach to training older workers—acknowledge their existing expertise while expanding their skills. Work with them to identify knowledge gaps, and avoid trying to re-teach them what they already know.
3. Accommodate their needs. Ensure your workplace is an accessible and welcoming environment for mature employees. Make accommodation a priority by providing older workers with the tools and flexibility they need to be able to work comfortably. Familiarize yourself with the kinds of conditions and challenges that may be associated with aging, and stay ahead of the game by identifying supports you can offer to older employees. And these supports aren’t always expensive! Headsets with adjustable volume controls, easy-to-read computer monitors, ergonomically correct chairs, and scheduling flexibility are just a few examples of inexpensive ways to adapt your workplace to older workers. For more tips on accommodating employees at work, click here.
4. Recognize their experience. We all want our expertise to be acknowledged, and older workers are no exception. More mature employees come with a wealth of experience that should be embraced and incorporated. Acknowledge older workers’ years of experience by soliciting their input and advice. Keep them in the loop on important decisions, and make sure they know the “why” of decisions affecting them.
5. Create balanced teams. Put older workers and young workers together. Having a range of perspectives on a team encourages diversity and collaboration. Take advantage of older employees’ experience and expertise by encouraging mentor/protégé relationships within your organization.
Your Engaged HR Assignment: Check yourself. Are you inadvertently discriminating against older workers during the hiring process by screening candidates out based on their age? Review the criteria you’re using, and check your bias (be honest!) to make sure you’re not discounting qualified older applicants.