Why older employees are worth the investment

investing in older workers

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve probably heard that we are living in an ageing population.  In most cases this news has been presented as some form of disaster, with issues such as healthcare, pension pay-outs and reduced availability of workers being the main highlights.  But rarely do we hear about the benefits that older people can bring to the fray, but as it turns out, there are plenty of them. 

Older people in the workforce

In the specific workplace environment, the issue of age discrimination is slowly being weeded out, but as much as we’d like to pretend it’s been extinguished entirely, this is far from the truth.  Many businesses continue to show preference for younger workers, and do relatively little to support and develop their more seasoned employees, implicitly expressing that they are not worth the investment.  But whether organisations like it or not, the ageing population means there will be more and more older people in the workforce, making it pretty important for businesses to find a way to support this change in the status quo. 

What benefits do older employees bring?

  • Experience – Having a wide breadth of knowledge, experience in different sectors and roles, and the ability to see the bigger picture are key skills that young recruits may be lacking.  Having a balanced workforce with individuals from every age group can have a positive impact on businesses outcomes – seasoned employees can help to ensure business runs smoothly while the younger team members find their feet and it also ensures that knowledge can be more readily transferred across to new employees. 
  • Loyalty – Unlike the millennial generation who are keen to progress and tend to ‘job hop’ to find new opportunities, the baby boomers are often found to be much more stable in their affiliations.  Thus when you employ someone of that generation, assuming you treat them with the respect they deserve, you are likely to have an employee for life (or until retirement at least). 
  • Work ethic – many older employees would have experienced an upbringing where hard graft was a standard expectation, and will happily apply this to their career.  This attribute can help create a much more productive workforce, and can help instil a similar attitude in younger workers if praised and highlighted appropriately. 

How to maximise older worker’s potential

With a greater degree of loyalty, good work ethic and high levels of experience, older employees are clearly an excellent investment for any business, but what steps can you take to maximise these benefits and utilise them to help your business to succeed? 

  • Hire them – you’re definitely not going to get any benefits of older workers if you don’t hire any.  Even if you have seasoned employees in your existing team, it’s also important to actively hire older individuals for upcoming roles.  They may not have the technical expertise of younger applicants, but that can be taught, the experience and instinct they bring can’t be.  Besides many older individuals are happily utilising hew technologies, so don’t make assumptions that they aren’t up to speed in this respect.
  • Use their knowledge and experience – Whether you’ve hired someone new or have existing baby boomers on the team, don’t relegate them to the substitute bench.  Use their hard earned knowledge; find out what they know and how you can apply it to your business.  See if they can spot any gaps in your processes or if they have suggestions for improvements to be made.  All employees can be a valuable resource in this respect no matter their age, but older generations will often have tangible experience to back up their suggestions, helping to reduce risk and improve effective implementation.
  • Invest in their development – There is a great deal of emphasis these days on learning and development, but this doesn’t always extend to older workers.  By offering and encouraging their development, this helps to not only improve their personal efficacy, but also enables them to influence outcomes for the wider business. Opportunities to learn technical skills is a classic area of focus, but baby boomer employees will benefit equally from any form of training available including leadership, personal effectiveness as well as IT and technical components. 

Looking at the list above it turns out that supporting older workers to be effective and productive members of the workforce is almost identical to the approach used to support any other member of the team.  The ultimate key to success in business is hiring the right people for the role, respecting their skills and putting them to good use.  It seems that really, age has nothing to do with it.

For more information on managing a cross-generational workforce, download the second issue of Enhance magazine.