In the rapidly changing world, employers are scrambling to find ways to attract highly qualified individuals, retain valuable employees and motivate them to achieve their top potential.
According to The Conference Board of Canada, only 27% of employees are highly engaged. Employers have focused so much on capturing the millennial workforce, adding flex scheduling, perks and other tactics designed to engage a population set that views work as transient.
But many workplace populations consist of individuals ranging in age from 20 to 70 (or older), not just millennials. In fact, the latest Canadian census showed that 1 in 5 workers was over 55 years of age, and over 30% of seniors work full time.
Older employees are less likely to be motivated by ping pong tables in the breakroom, and the promise of an eventual promotion has little sway over individuals who are approaching the end of their working career. However, the Baby Boomer population has a striking similarity to the millennial worker: if they aren’t engaged at work, they’ll leave.
How can you engage the older employees in your workforce?
Value their experience
Everyone wants recognition for their work, but the older employee wants to be recognized for the depth and breadth of their experience. Acknowledge their experience and tap into that expertise.
Give their work value
In many cases, older employees are still in the workplace because they want to be - not because of a financial need. They’re looking for something that provides meaning and purpose in their life. This is the perfect opportunity to engage your older employees as community outreach coordinators, project managers for social projects and for introducing networking programs within your organization. Show your employees the value of what they are doing, and allow them to lead initiatives they believe in.
Encourage them to mentor younger employees. Use seasoned employees as mentors for younger workers who are eager to succeed is a great way to pass on more than just skill-based training. Unlike training partners who are similar in age and station, there is less competition between an up-and-comer and a boomer who has already made their mark on the world and is eager to help a less experienced worker do the same..
Seek their advice
Advisory boards, employee panels and other opportunities for older employees to use their experience can be a key way to engage with the vision of the company. Ask for input on new programs and process, and allow them the chance to give feedback on strategic plans for the future.
Offer training on new technology and methods
As technology becomes more prevalent in the workplace, some older employees can feel outdated and intimidated when faced with process and tools they don’t understand.
Instead of assuming they’ll “figure it out”, offer training sessions on the newest methods. Even things that seem intuitive (how to use a smart phone, accessing collaborative programs or video-conferencing, for example) can be overwhelming.
Provide 15 minute “How-to” classes during lunch, or offer to pair older employees with a tech-savvy millennial with patience. However, do understand that older employees can be just as enthusiastic and comfortable with new technology as younger employees. Often the fear around change it isn’t an age thing, but more a mindset thing. Be mindful putting everyone in a bucket just based on their generation.
A workforce with a diverse age range provides your company with a wealth of opportunities for success. Capitalize on the unique perspectives that older employees have and work to engage them in your business.
Michele Bailey is president and CEO of Blazing Agency and My Big Idea®. These two lines of business work congruently to support her clients’ success.