Rejuvenate Your Older Employees and Help Them Stay Motivated
‘That is no country for old men….. And therefore I have sailed the seas and come To the holy city of Byzantium – Sailing to Byzantium,W.B. Yeats’
In the poem, Byzantium is ‘the’ place for the old, a place that will take care of the needs of an ageing man, as against a country which only caters to the young. Written by Yeats in his early 60’s, the poem depicted his yearning to be in a place where he would be comfortable, at ease and appreciated.
If you put that in the corporate perspective, are your older employees happy or are they fantasizing about a Byzantium that they can run away to? Are you doing enough to ensure that this wise, experienced and mature segment of your workforce stays happy, contented and challenged?
The reality today is that most organisations are employers of an age-diverse work force. Call it one of the biggest positives of the advances in science and technology – a higher life expectancy and good health has resulted in a workforce that ranges from 20+ to 60+. Sounds great in theory, right? A 20-something geek working alongside a sixty year old designer. A multi-generational workforce comprising of traditionalists, baby-boomers, millennials and the generation Y. Unfortunately, this diversity in age translates into myriad challenges for business leaders, as they seek to balance experience with youth.
Sixty is the new forty; age is but a number; one is as old as one feels – clichés perhaps. It is undeniable though, that age is no longer a factor when it comes to work and employability. Wisdom dictates that ignoring ‘older’ employees, with skill and experience would be foolhardy. In an era where retaining talent is a major challenge, no organization can afford to lose experienced and mature senior employees, the people in the 50+ age group. And keeping such employees engaged, motivated and productive may need a paradigm shift in the extant business policies of employee engagement, which are geared towards the younger employees.
So what could be the motivators for the older, or rather, more experienced, long-term employees – the elixir that would rejuvenate?
One of the primary factors contributing to the older generation continuing to work is the sense of control it affords to their lives. They work, may be because they need to; but more often because they love to. They work to remain healthy and active, for the social interactions, for the knowledge they are ready to share, for the contributions they feel they make. Organisations which leverage this urge to contribute, this desire to work, benefit from a dedicated, skilled and experienced work force. Older employees weigh the scales by bringing to the table years of knowledge of human behavior, the ability to anticipate and foresee, to gauge and assess-intangibles assets built over years.
Devising effective strategies to engage/motivate older employees starts with changing mindsets and discarding/eliminating stereotypes. The tendency to consider employment in the long-term, the acceptance of hierarchical practices but also adoption of new practices that will benefit the organisation, the sense of pride in a job done well, superlative inter-personal relationships, and professional expertise are inherent generational traits which guide these employees. Motivators which incorporate these are sure bets for improved productivity.
Besides the impact of extrinsic factors such as physical well being, shifting priorities, working environment, interpersonal relationships, and intrinsic motivators like company policies, job satisfaction, a workplace milieu which is age-diversity friendly, a culture which incorporates inherent generational characteristics, a company that respects what such experienced employees have to offer, without exacerbating generational gaps, may never have to deal with attrition of these experienced, loyal and dedicated employees.
To quote Betty Friedan, “Age is not lost youth, but a new stage of opportunity and strength”