In a world that often seems to be obsessed with the promise of youth, it’s crucial to pause and reflect on the importance of the older generation in our lives and our workplaces. This demographic – rich in experience, wisdom, and perspective – represents an invaluable resource that should never be overlooked.
The older generation brings a unique set of skills to the table, with knowledge and attributes that complement those of younger colleagues, which can only create a more rounded, diverse, and resilient organisation and workplace.
How the older generation can boost the global economy
Our world is undergoing a generational shift. As the baby boomers move into their mature decades, our older people live longer. While that is a concern when our healthcare systems are being pushed to their limits, our modern workplaces are buoyed by an upsurge of older workers, boosting the national and international economy. As they approach 60, many people choose to work beyond their retirement years for several reasons.
But what experience can older people bring to an organisation that our younger counterparts may not yet muster early on in their careers – and what can we learn from them?
1. Experience That Counts
The most obvious benefit we get from the older generation is their extensive life and work experience. They have weathered countless storms in the business world, navigated economic downturns, and emerged stronger from each challenge life has thrown at them. This experience is not simply about the number of years spent in an industry; it’s about the depth and breadth of knowledge accumulated, the understanding of business cycles, and the capacity to apply this knowledge to the workplace.
2. Soft Skills and Emotional Intelligence
Older workers often possess advanced soft skills like communication, problem-solving, and leadership. They have honed these skills over decades, making them adept at dealing with different personalities, managing conflicts, and fostering a positive workplace culture. Their high emotional intelligence, empathy, and understanding often heighten effective team collaboration and client relationships.
3. Dedication and Loyalty
Research consistently shows that older employees tend to be more dedicated and loyal to their employers than their younger counterparts. As a result, they are more likely to stay with a company longer, reducing turnover rates and associated costs. This loyalty often translates into a deep commitment to the company’s mission, vision, and values, fostering stability and continuity within the organisation.
4. Teaching and Mentoring Abilities
The older generation can play a significant role in teaching and mentoring younger colleagues. Their wealth of knowledge and experience makes them ideal guides through the intricacies of their positions, sharing practical tips and providing valuable feedback. This transfer of knowledge not only helps individuals grow professionally but also strengthens the overall competencies of the organisation.
5. Strong Work Ethic
Many older workers were raised with a strong work ethic, exhibiting diligence, responsibility, tenacity, and perseverance. They understand the importance of delivering quality work and meeting deadlines, making them reliable and trustworthy team members. Their dedication can inspire younger colleagues in the development and growth of their career paths, helping instil a culture of excellence and integrity.
6. Adaptability and Resilience
Contrary to some stereotypes, older workers can be highly adaptable and resilient. They have experienced significant changes in their careers—from typewriters to personal computers, fax machines to e-mails, paper archives to cloud storage—and have adapted accordingly. This resilience helps them navigate change and uncertainty, making them an asset in today’s fast-paced, ever-evolving business environment.
7. Diverse Perspective
The older generation offers a different perspective based on different life experiences and cultural backgrounds. Diversity is crucial for innovation, problem-solving, and decision-making. It enables an organisation to view challenges and opportunities from multiple angles, enhancing its ability to develop robust strategies and solutions.
By bringing these different perspectives together, younger and older workers should be able to learn and embrace each other’s views, both as people and as employees.
8. Flexible working environments
Never has there been a better time to promote flexible working environments. The 9 – 5 has long gone for many companies, as people clock in and out of the building at more convenient hours. With technology enabling people to work just about anywhere, it’s the perfect time to create flexible working policies supporting people’s lifestyles too. For example, older workers may also have caring responsibilities (children, parents or others), so having agile, flexible support in place is welcomed by people.
And people reaching their older decades may prefer a more part-time job to ease full-time work commitment. As we grow older, according to statistics, a retirement-age worker who works part-time delivers high-level experience at a lower-level cost, which can be particularly beneficial for small and medium-sized businesses.
It’s a slightly older pre-pandemic study (2017), but this report is still a relevant and interesting study which highlights some key findings of what is fulfilling for more senior workers.
Celebrating older age and experience
Older workers are an invaluable resource. Although many organisations say they have age-friendly policies to support this demographic at work, they need to ensure they’re not just ticking boxes. People of all ages and experience are vital to any organisation who want to be inclusive and diverse. The older generation can help younger colleagues get the best out of work and people with their knowledge and perspective.
The inclusion and promotion of the older generation in the workplace is not simply a matter of equity or corporate social responsibility—it’s a strategic decision that can significantly enhance an organisation’s performance, resilience, and competitiveness. By fostering this in the workplace, companies can play to the strengths of each generation within their own four walls.
It’s time we fully appreciate the older generation for the remarkable value they bring to our workplaces.
For further reading and some insightful information about how we can embrace how we include an older generation viewpoint in work, take a look at the link here from Age Concern – https://bit.ly/3I4HzGj
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