How to manage older workers

With the default retirement age set to continue rising and the state of pensions worsening in the UK, it is likely that employees will carry on working much later than ever before.

by Mike Hunter
Last Updated: 14 Apr 2016

As retirement ages climb, businesses increasingly have to start considering how they can maximise the skills available from right across the spectrum. It is not about supporting or accommodating an ageing workforce – it is about how we use an older generation’s different talents and experience to enrich the careers of the entire workforce and boost overall performance for the company. Certainly, there are differences that need to be taken into account.

It is a fact that, by and large, ‘millennials’ (people born in time for the technology explosion of the 2000s) are naturally more technologically savvy. Unlike their more seasoned colleagues, many enter the workplace completely au fait with a massive range of technology and communication tools, and are naturally pre-disposed to learning new ones much more easily. 

Generally, they enjoy working flexibly with a range of mobile devices. In fact, many get frustrated with the failure of their firms to match the technology they are used to using, and are instrumental in shaping how their employers implement new technology to advance the business. 

But while the younger lot might automatically arrange a video chat on the Google+ social network, industry veterans are more accustomed to travelling to physical meetings and engaging with clients face-to-face. It’s worth adopting an approach that accommodates both ways of communicating. One is a time and money saver, but the other arguably results in more genuine, trusting business relationships, so they both have a place. 

Staff retention is another area businesses need to look at, as retaining mature employees requires different tactics from those used to keep their younger colleagues on board. Allowing them to conduct business in ways that they are more comfortable with can help to make mature workers feel that they are not being undermined by the newer approach of the younger generation. 

Mature workers can offer a wealth of industry knowledge and a useful guide to cultural differences from their years of doing business. Having that industry experience and the self-belief – based on many years of grounding - to take important decisions is vital. In reality, businesses should look to combine a mix of old and new working practices.

The hard part is blending these groups together and transferring knowledge effectively between them. Recruiting young people is undoubtedly important, but businesses shouldn’t neglect the power of older candidates to nurture the rest of the business. 

Mike Hunter is head of Cognizant Business Consulting, Europe.

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