U.S. employers aren’t getting ready for the effects the country’s aging population will have on the workforce. According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, less than half of respondents are preparing to manage a larger proportion of older workers by reviewing their management practices and internal policies. Nearly 20% said their organization was only tarting to realize the effect the larger ratio of older employees will have on the entire workforce.
Baby Boomers are only beginning to retire, and while some are ready to move on and start the next chapter of their lives, others would like to keep working. Are you ready for what both of these scenarios will mean for your organization?
Here are several ways you can help your organization prepare to effectively manage its aging workforce.
Create Succession Plans and Transfer Knowledge
“Older employees possess a storehouse of knowledge and experience, and when they retire, it can be a tough loss for a company,” says Lynda McKay, vice president of human resource consulting at Bagnall. “Older employees offer history knowledge and valuable information about clients: who they are, what they believe and the history of clients’ culture, work environment and people.”
“By creating succession plans, companies can ensure the knowledge stays behind when older employees retire,” McKay says. You want to ensure your succession plans include an action plan to transfer retiring employees’ professional and institutional knowledge. Mentorship and training programs can help set up direct knowledge transfers to the people who will take over when older employees retire.
Train to Retain
“Older employees may not have the technology training they need to stay current,” McKay says. Keeping older employees up-to-date ensures they stay engaged in their positions and are able to take advantage of fast-changing job tools.
“Don’t think older employees can’t learn new things,” says Hannah Ubl, a researcher at generational consulting firm BridgeWorks. “Too often, boomers are viewed as a generation averse to change, when nothing could be less true for this competitive and idealistic generation.”
Bridge the Gap
Generation gaps can make it difficult for younger and older workers to relate to each other and work well together. “Constant reference to ‘back in the day’ or ‘the way kids do things’ does nothing but create work environment gaps,” McKay says.
“Most boomers are passionate about the next stage in their careers, whether that’s focusing on mentorship, a new project or a new business,” Ubl says. “Smart managers can tap into that excitement and foster a collaborative work environment where every generation is learning from each other. Older generations have been through a lot in their work history, and others can learn a lot from them,” she says.
Offer the Right Benefits
Financial concerns change with age and can become confusing and overwhelming as employees approach retirement. McKay suggests offering benefits such as consultation with a retirement financial planner or someone who is well-versed in completing Medicare paperwork. “It’s helpful when a company offers a vendor or consultant who can walk employees through plan literature,” she says.
“Other benefits older employees may value include immediate vesting in retirement benefits upon hire and phased retirement — working 4 days for a year, then 3 days the next year and so on,” says Nancy Alrichs, a consultant at FlashPointHR. While it’s important to offer benefits and management styles that are friendly to older workers, Alrichs says that in some ways, managing an older workforce is no different than managing anyone else. Providing face-to-face feedback, offering ongoing training, rewarding productivity and respecting differences goes a long way to engaging employees of all ages in their work.