Life expectancy is increasing and on one hand economies will need older workers to work longer to fund pensions and on the other hand as long as old people feel useful, are treated fairly and have a sense of belonging, acceptance and appreciation they are ready to work more years for their benefit too. The challenge is that leading older people needs a different approach.
During the workshop we have been using many insights from the book Managing an Older Workforce written by Peter Capelli and Bill Novelli. Let me highlight the most relevant ones to me:
- In yesterday’s world, most people went through a fairly sequential pattern in their lives: education was for the young, work was for adults, and leisure (retirement) was for the old. But that pattern has changed.
- People are working longer, out of either choice or necessity. Nevertheless discrimination against older individuals is common. Discrimination against older workers is widespread — indeed , by most measures, greater than that confronting minorities and women .
- Let’s define age in terms of health and life expectancy rather than years of life .
- Inclusion of diverse populations — including older workers — is a strength .
- It’s one thing to retain and recruit older workers, but it’s quite another to make them truly part of the company, where their ideas, experience, and insights are valued.
- Only by understanding their diversity of lifestyles, wants, needs, and expectations can we take advantage of all they have to offer and ensure that all people have their shot.
- The main constraint is conflicts and misunderstandings with younger managers. To oversimplify, younger managers don’t really know how to manage older workers — and older workers don’t know how to get what they need from their younger managers. As a consequence the biggest obstacle in getting access to jobs lies with younger managers.The biggest mistake that the younger supervisors make is to avoid conflict by avoiding the older subordinate, leaving them to work independently without guidance.
- Managing older workers, requires a different approach. It conforms to many of the contemporary ideas about effective leadership: communicate clearly about issues and challenges, involve employees in decisions, delegate tasks, and recognize contributions. So employer practices matter a lot.
True need for any country and organization is to learn how to successfully lead Older Workers. We need them, they need us.