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Engaging mature workers

The fastest growing segment of the workforce and overall population is mature workers, or those at or approaching 65. This is an issue in the United States because people of working age contribute funds to support those that have retired, and as the population ages, the number of people of working age decrease. In order to combat this issue, older people are having to work later in life.

Three quarters of mature workers have said they wanted to continue working, but only one quarter of them do, which could be linked to them feeling disengaged at work. According to research from the University of South Australia, older employees have a tendency to feel ‘stereotype threat’ which happens when reporting to younger managers, being surrounded by young coworkers, or when working in labor-intensive positions.  There is also a fear factor associated with younger supervisors having to manage older employees. These younger supervisors may have less experience than them, and it can be difficult to draw the line. It is management’s responsibility to shape this relationship and ensure each party understands each other’s responsibilities.

It is also a manager’s responsibility to keep these older workers engaged. Any employer who wants to engage a skilled, motivated, and disciplined workforce cannot afford to ignore them. It can even cost an organization an average of 30% of the worker’s income in lost productivity.

According to research at the University of South Australia, there are two management practices that can be utilized to reduce stereotype threats and increase engagement. The first and most widely used, High Performance Practices, focuses on training employees, rewarding them, and encouraging workers to participate in the organization’s decision making. The second, Mature-Age Practices, focuses on updating older employees’ skill sets, redesigning their job to fit their physical needs, giving mentorship opportunities, and allowing them to ease into retirement.
In addition to these practices, consider giving mature workers customer-facing positions in  as one of the reasons they tend to continue to work is to stay social. Allowing them to put their experience to use will boost their engagement and benefit the organization as well.