The challenges of managing an ageing workforce have been put firmly under the spotlight with the news that the age limit on student loans has been lifted to encourage over 60s to go back to university and retrain.
The impetus behind the initiative is that today’s employees will be required to work well past conventional retirement age – and that those who keep their skills up-to-date will be better placed not just to maintain their ‘employability’ but also to make a meaningful contribution to the organisations they work for now and in the future.
It’s certainly true to say that the country’s future economic success will depend partly on the skills and contributions of older workers. By 2020, a third of the UK’s workforce will be over 50, meaning the old will outnumber the young for the first time in history.
Older employees do, of course, have an invaluable contribution to make, but an ageing workforce presents challenges, as well as opportunities for organisations. They need to find the best way of exploiting the mix of talent available in the business, develop strategies to meet the differing needs and motivations of older and younger workers and create cultures where the generations are able to work together harmoniously.
So how well prepared is your organisation for managing an increasing number of older workers – and what are the key issues the business should be thinking about.
1. Bridging the generation gap
Recent research conducted by Ashridge revealed significant differences in the way older managers and Generation Y employees approach the world of work. The global survey of managers and graduates shows that the generations have very different strengths. Older workers have the experience to judge risk and influence people effectively and are skilled at negotiating their way around the ‘internal politics’ of the organisation. They place a strong emphasis on experience, teamwork and respect. Their younger counterparts are technology-savvy individuals who learn fast, are skilled at building powerful external networks and are hungry for rapid career progression. Work-life balance is important to them, as is public recognition of their achievements. These differences mean that the two parties are looking at the world of work through different lenses and often struggle to work together effectively as a result. Organisations need to find ways of overcoming the ‘them and us’ attitude and helping the generations understand and learn from each other better.
"The impetus behind the initiative is that today’s employees will be required to work well past conventional retirement age – and that those who keep their skills up-to-date will be better placed not just to maintain their ‘employability’ but also to make a meaningful contribution to the organisations they work for now and in the future."
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