Tag Archives: Older Workers

Employers, 5 ways to retain your older workers

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?

older workers

For employers who value the job experience, maturity, and dependability that older workers offer; consider the values they seek in a work environment. Consider how providing the values will cement their loyalty. Oh yes, older workers are, by and large, more loyal than younger workers.

Read this article on how millennials should stay at jobs longer.

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.

Read this post on 5 strengths of older workers.

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.

Younger interviewers, 9 reasons why you shouldn’t discriminate against older workers

Job interview

As a followup to 5 reasons why older workers should not discriminate against younger interviewers, this is the flip side of age discrimination.

I hate seeing trepidation in the eyes of my older workers. It concerns me and then I get angry. The reason for their trepidation is because they fear that employers will pass them over because of their age.

I assure them that only a few interviewers will practice age discrimination—usually the ignorant ones—but sometimes my words will fall on deaf ears. The doubt has already been planted in their minds.

They’ve heard stories about how older job candidates are asked question that are designed to figure out how old they are. An obvious question about age is, “So, when did you graduate from high school?” They nod at the transparency of this question.

This is the kind of crap my older workers face. This is the reason for their fear, even before the interview has begun. Essentially their chances of doing well during the interview are slim to none because they are already psyched out. And then I get frustrated because of their fear.

So younger interviewer, here are some things to consider.

Older workers know more about the job than you do, but they’re not there to take you job. A common complaint of my older workers is the hiring managers’ lack of knowledge, which is reflected in the questions they ask. Beyond that, older workers have been at their career for 20, 30, or more years. It reasons that they have more experience than younger workers.

But they also say that they simply want to be hired for the job for which they’re applying. They’re not interested in taking the hiring manager’s position. Some of them want to step back and rid themselves of management responsibilities, they don’t want the stress.

Older workers are dependable. You’re mistaken if you think older workers will miss work due to illness, mental health days, child care, and any other excuse you can think of. They have a work ethic and commitment to work that is ingrained in them.

My father worked six days a week, and I try to emulate his work ethic. I arrive early to work, even though I don’t have to, and am willing to come in early and stay late, if necessary. This is because they can; I don’t have the commitments younger workers have, namely children.

Older workers also are not interested in jumping from job to job. They believe in loyalty. You can be assured that they will want to make your employer’s company their second home. So there’s no sense in asking them where they plan to be five years from now. They plan to be with you.

In a Forbes article, it states the average tenure for older workers is approximately 4.4 years, whereas the tenure for the millennials is half that. Here’s a great post from my valued connections, Catherine Miklaus, that explains the job-hopper mindset.

Older workers have life experience that helps them solve unusual problems. Some older workers have experienced loss. In some cases they’ve lost loved ones and or jobs, which has forced them to adapt to adverse situations.

The ability to adapt to adverse situations makes older workers natural problem solvers. They think calmly under pressure because they’ve seen the problems and have learned from their mistakes. Practice makes perfect, as they say.

Older workers want to work. A common misconception is that older workers are waiting until retirement comes. The fact is that if the work is stimulating, they will work years beyond retirement age.

One of my colleagues is beyond retirement age, yet she says she would work as long as she could, because she enjoys the responsibilities and the people with whom she works. Trust the older candidate when she says she has no plans to retire.

Older workers can be a great mentors and may teach you a valuable thing or two. People who want to progress in their career understand the importance of a mentor who can help them with the technical, as well as the emotional, aspects of their job.

Older workers, who have more job-related experience, also have developed emotional intelligence (EQ) that comes with the trials in tribulations of their work. Older workers know themselves and others’ limitations.

Older workers will make you look good because you hired the best candidate. Come on, would you rather hire someone who you’re not threatened by, or someone who can be a great asset to your team? Okay, that’s a difficult question to answer.

But here’s the thing; when you hire a poor worker, that person doesn’t work out and the company loses between $25,000 and $50,000 finding his/her replacement. And you look really bad. Trust me when I say older workers don’t want your job; they just want to work. Period.

Older workers may not be as fast as you, but they works smarter, not harder. So you take the stairs two steps at a time, you work 12 hours a day and see this as productive, you never take vacation (idiot), you multi-task your ass off.

Older workers don’t do any of that foolishness, because they do the job once and get it right. I used to be in a hurry to get nowhere, until I realized that it’s better to work smarter, not harder. It may seem like a cliche, but it works. So don’t laugh when I’m walking down the hall and you’re running. We’re both getting there.

Older workers don’t think they’re all that. I’ve had the privilege to work in a young, vibrant environment, and a more mature professional one. I’ve enjoyed both, even the Nerf Footballs zipping by my head. But I have to say that the younger workers were more concerned about their pride than the older workers with whom I’ve worked.

Rest assured, younger interviewer, that we older workers have experienced our successes and the peak of our career. We’re not into the fast cars, perfectly manicured hair style, and taking credit for your work (at least I hope not). You can be “all that.” We’ll look on with admiration.

When you’re interviewing the man with grey hair sitting across from you, don’t judge him before getting to know him. He possesses many of the attributes I’ve described, plus some. Ask the questions you’d ask anyone applying for the job. It’s likely that he’s expecting you to demonstrate bias, as he’s experienced it before, so surprise him and be the better man.