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October 2012
« Sep   Nov »

Managing Older Employees? What Do They Want From You as Their Manager?

Posted by: Dr. Sue Harrington & Reena Jamnadas


In the UK, there are over 7 million workers aged between 50 and 64, and one million of these are over 65. A worker who is currently aged 50 is now likely to work another 15 to 20 years.


The future age demographics of the British workforce are influenced by factors such as improving health in older age, fewer younger people entering the job market, increases in the State Pension age and the removal of the default retirement age.


Using the data we obtained from older workers in Capp’s Ideal Manager Survey, we consider how strengths can be used to manage and motivate older workers to maximise their engagement and performance, and to ensure that organisations benefit from their skills and experience.


But first, let’s remove some of the myths regarding older workers:


  • No decline in productivity: Older worker productivity does not begin to decline until after age 70;
  • Better health and safety: Older workers tend to have lower sickness absence than younger employees, are more committed to their employer and are less likely to have accidents at work;
  • Comparable return on training investment: Older workers are just as likely to want to learn new and challenging skills as younger workers and will benefit as much as their younger counterparts from investment in their training and development. Furthermore, the risk of any employee leaving after training investment is the same for all age groups.


When it comes to managing older workers, Capp’s Ideal Manager Survey revealed that values and principles are important to this group of employees.


Three key strengths in managers emerged as particularly important for older workers:


  • Mission: Managers who work with a sense of meaning and purpose, and towards a long-term goal;
  • Moral Compass: Managers who are guided by a strong ethical code, and make decisions in accordance with what they believe is right;
  • Personal Responsibility: Managers who take ownership of their decisions and hold themselves accountable for their promises.


To make a difference for the older employees you manage, consider these five pointers:


1.   Manage authentically and transparently. Whilst managing with integrity applies to all age groups, it is particularly important for older workers.


2.   Continue to value, reward and invest in development – ensuring continued and equal opportunities for training and development.


3.   Identify what gives each individual a sense of meaning and purpose. Have a conversation about this and explore opportunities to align tasks, projects and goals to this purpose.


4.   Provide autonomy and don’t seek to micro-manage – responsibility alongside clear accountability drives personal responsibility.


5.   Encourage mentoring relationships and opportunities for the sharing of knowledge and experience.


While we recognise that every employee is different and we’re mindful of the dangers of stereotypes, our data do suggest that these three things are the stand-out criteria of things that really matter for older employees.


Try putting them into practice and let us know of your experiences on the Comment section below.


Download Capp’s Performance Manager White Paper to find out more about what people want from their managers.


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