I’ve marveled at the number of posts that have been written about how employers need to retain Millennials. How important it is to provide an environment that promotes learning, advancement, technology, etc. Yet, ne’er a word has been written about retaining older workers. Why is that?
For employers who recognize the job experience, maturity, and dependability that older workers offer; consider the values older workers seek in a work environment.
So what are the values older workers desire? Here are 6 important ones:
1. Professional, results-driven environment. I remember the days when I was in marketing. I had reached the ripe ole age of 40. And I sat adjacent to the Sales department, most of whom were in their late 20’s. It was a common practice in their department to let off steam by playing Nerf football. It was also common for the football to whiz by my ears.
The environment I just described does not represent a professional, results-driven environment. The Sales department got their work done, albeit it took them longer to accomplish it. (Not a great example of time management.)
Older workers prefer a team-oriented environment where everyone is focused on the work at hand. They want to dig in, work hard, and not waste time. I consider this an important goal of any company, even ones that employ younger workers.
2. An environment that provides proper motivation. In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink asserts there are three factors that motivate workers. They are autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Older workers aren’t motivated by the carrot and stick method, despite what managers think.
Although all three factors are important, autonomy is the one employers can control the most. Older workers will develop mastery through repeatedly performing their tasks. If there is no purpose in what they do, they should find another job.
When I ask older job seekers which type of management style they appreciate most, the majority of them say a hands-off approach. This, I believe, is because they want to be treated like adults, rather than having someone constantly looking over their shoulders.
3. An environment that’s youthful. Recall the description of the sales department playing Nerf football in the office? That isn’t what I’m talking about; although, I did find it humerus and even participated every once in awhile.
I, for one, am not all about a stodgy, “professional” environment where it’s all about work. I enjoy letting off steam and having fun, perhaps playing some practical jokes and engaging in fun banter. To me, it’s about having fun doing what you’re doing.
I’ve worked for organizations where many of the employees were older than 50…and they showed it. I think their attitude had more to do with the management style that would have required the same behavior from 20 somethings. In other words, older workers can behave young, while still maintaining professionalism.
4. Work they look forward to when Monday roles around. Do any of you feel this way. I’m talking with a client who told me that he wants a change. He’s more than 50-years-old and wants out of what he is doing.
“Bob, I want to be excited about going to work,” he said to me. So when Friday roles around he won’t have one foot out the door, looking forward to the weekend like he has been. And when Monday arrives, he’ll not dread going to work.
In other words, he’ll have purpose. When Pink talks about purpose, he means the type of work you do. Do you feel it’s valuable to humanity? And if you don’t have purpose in your work, you’re saying to yourself, “Why am I doing this?” This can be a sad feeling.
5. Disperse the work appropriately. This is where I say that, true, older workers can’t lift 100 pounds as many times as they used to. It’s a given that older workers lose some of their physical abilities. They, as well as companies, have to realize this.
Companies need to groom workers to become supervisors or train them on automated tasks and other technologies. Older workers don’t lose their capacity to think and reason. If given the opportunity, they will take on roles that require more advanced knowledge.
Older workers also make great mentors to younger, less-focused workers. One of my customers was hired by a larger corporation to mentor their technical writers. What a great job, I thought to myself. Older workers have possibly lived through harder times and have learned from those experiences. This makes them great problem solvers.
Employers, retaining your older workers makes plenty of sense. Most likely they’ve been loyal employees who have been with you many years. You’ve invested in training them and they’ve learned your system. Keep in mind that training new, younger workers will be expensive. Also keep in mind that today’s younger workers probably won’t stick around very long.