There are lots of misperceptions and stereotypes regarding older workers. Typically, most hiring managers believe that older employees are more susceptible to burnout than their younger counterparts. Such ideas are often ill-informed. The 2009 report from the Sloan Centre on Aging & Work reveals that aging workers score high when it comes to reliability, loyalty, and productivity.
Who are older workers?
The definition of what constitutes an older worker has remained elusive for long. There are many inconsistencies in the definitions provided out there making it challenging to compare and contrast findings of the research, demographic predictions, and the analyses of policies. The Age Discrimination Act, however, protects employees that are more than 40 years of age, classifying them as older workers.
Myths and realities about older workers
There are myths that older workers can't grasp new ideas at work. This is not true at all. In reality, workers aged over 40 are lately proving to be fast learners with a good number of them undertaking several courses to boost their skills. It is also thought that older workers cannot work for long. However, based on recent reports, these groups of workers stayed on the job twice as long as those workers aged 25 to 34.
Another disturbing myth about older workers is that they ask for more sick offs than their younger colleagues. In the real sense though, attendance records have shown that older workers perform better than the younger ones. When it comes to flexibility and adaptability, a lot of people believe that older workers aren't flexible and cannot adapt to changes fast. But in reality, due to years of seeing many failed approaches, older workers are prone to questioning change though can easily adapt to new ideas. Older employees are not expensive and don't require additional training as a majority of people like to believe.
Benefits of Older Employees
Older employees are one of the best resources young managers can use to adapt to their new positions. Having been in the industry for years, they know what works and what doesn’t. Most of them have faced myriads of technical problems, which have allowed them to garner a wealth of experience in problem-solving. In addition to that, they have years of experience in dealing with consumers. Therefore, consulting with such employees from time to time can prove to be invaluable for the growth of your company.
Handling Older Workers
While relating to older workers may appear daunting, always strive to forge a personal connection with them to understand them better. Find out what keeps them motivated, how they learn and communicate, and what they value the most. This will enable you to manage them more effectively.
It is true that old workers carry a wealth of experience. However, it isn’t safe to assume they are well-versed with all the company systems and tech. Also, it isn’t right to go with the notion that they need more training than the younger workers. Since everyone learns at a different pace irrespective of the age, study each employee and identify specific areas where they might need more training.
Finally, embrace confrontation as an essential tool of leadership. Despite being older than you, aging workers also make mistakes which can be detrimental to the growth of your company. If you do not hold them accountable for their misdeeds in fear of being viewed as disrespectful, you will have failed in your management role. Earn their respect by doing your job right – telling them when they’re wrong.