Smart Company: Five ways SMEs can leverage the ‘great unretirement’ in their business - Michelle Gibbings

Statistics reveal that 40% of new entrants to the labour force are aged over 55 has been labelled the ‘great unretirement’. Thanks to Smart Company, Michelle had the opportunity to share her five tips on how you can leverage that ‘great unretirement’.

Recent labour force figures revealing that 40% of new entrants to the labour force are aged over 55 has been labelled the ‘great unretirement’.

With an older demographic now comprising almost 20% of the workforce, there’s a fantastic opportunity for organisations and businesses to better tap into this segment and leverage the available experience and knowledge.

Recognise the benefits

Securing these benefits starts by ditching the myths associated with older workers.

Research by Professor Thomas Ng from the University of Hong Kong and Professor Daniel Feldman from the University of Georgia found myths that older workers (as compared with younger workers) are less motivated, more resistant to change, not as trusting, more likely to experience health problems that affect their work and more vulnerable to work-family conflicts are unfounded. However, they found that older workers are, on average, less likely to engage in career development programs than younger workers.

Older workers bring a wealth of experience, skills, and knowledge to the table. They have been through multiple economic cycles, have a strong work ethic and are often seeking stability, making them less likely to switch jobs.

A team that includes employees from different age groups also brings diverse perspectives, helping to generate new ideas and solutions that a homogenous team might not consider. Similarly, a diverse team can create a more inclusive and welcoming work environment leading to increased employee engagement, job satisfaction and loyalty.

So, how can leaders leverage the ‘great unretirement’ in their organisation? Here are five ideas.

1. Implement age-diverse recruitment practices

Actively seek out older workers when recruiting. Such practices can include job ads targeting more senior workers, partnering with organisations that connect employers with experienced workers, leveraging professional networks, and working with recruiting firms that specialise in sourcing candidates from diverse backgrounds.

As part of this, avoid using language that might discourage older workers from applying for job vacancies. For example, language such as ‘digital native’ or ‘recent graduate’ implies the company is looking for younger workers. Instead, focus on the skills and experience that are required.

2. Establish age-friendly policies and practices

Examine your workplace policies and consider the practices — such as flexible work arrangements (e.g. part-time or remote work) — that enable older workers to continue working while also addressing their specific needs, such as caregiving responsibilities or health issues.

3. Develop two-way mentoring programs

Mentoring is a powerful way to transfer knowledge and experience and can help establish a culture where contribution across the ages is equally valued and valuable.

The key is to focus on two-way mentoring, which recognises that the learning goes both ways.

Mentoring benefits younger workers, who can learn from someone with more experience, and older workers, who can share their knowledge and expertise with the younger generation. It is also an opportunity for older workers to update their skills from their tech-savvy younger colleagues.

4. Create an inclusive culture

A workforce that spans generations, from baby boomers to Gen Z, brings enormous benefits, but for those benefits to be realised, you need an inclusive and accepting work environment.

Older workers may feel left out or marginalised in a youth-focused culture. Leaders should strive to create a culture that values the contributions of all employees, regardless of their age.

For example, recognise and celebrate the achievements of older workers, provide opportunities for them to share their knowledge and expertise, and set clear standards and workplace behaviours that are welcoming and respectful.

5. Provide training and development opportunities

Don’t assume older workers are not interested in learning new skills. Offering training and development opportunities can help older workers update their skills and stay current with industry trends, best practices and new processes and techniques.

These training programs can range from technology-focused courses to leadership development programs.

A learning-based approach also benefits the organisation by ensuring everyone uses the latest tools and techniques. These offerings also demonstrate to the older worker that the organisation is invested in their professional growth and development, which can encourage them to remain in the workforce.

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