Challenges for Older Workers | BusinessBlogs Hub

Challenges for Older Workers BusinessBlogs Hub.webp | energyhuntsvillesummit

Rank-and-file employees are usually perceived as individuals who work during their prime years. This is the time when they are most physically and mentally capable and it spans from the ages of 25 to 54, during which people tend to be most productive and efficient in their work.

However, the reality is that the workforce is getting older, with less younger people and more older folk. The population size of Baby Boomers is significantly larger compared to subsequent generations. Statistics show that 10,000 baby boomers in the US turn 65 daily.

Since the retirement age of a baby boomer is somewhere between 61 and 67, it’s not hard to see that this “silver tsunami” will create some serious challenges for HR.

This article examines some of the challenges for organisations and their older employees including the skills gap, culture and technology.

The Talent Gap

A headache for organisations’ HR departments is finding younger workers with the necessary skills and expertise to replace their older workers. Globablly there is a skills shortage.

There are not enough young professionals to fill the vacancies, let alone match the skills and experience of the older workforce. This situation forces employers to find ways to retain their older employees and maximize their knowledge and expertise.

How are employers retaining their older employees?

Understanding the benefits and challenges of older employees enables organisations to implement strategies to keep them for longer – possibly way past the retirement age.

Some examples of strategies include:

  • Comfortable work environment – set up for older staff to meet their physical and mental health requirements. For example easily accessible restrooms, and wider open-plan floor layouts.
  • Phased Retirement – older workers can slowly reduce their work hours per day or per week
  • Mentorship programs – pairing older with younger staff for skills and knowledge transfer

There are many more ways employers can retain key talent who are near retirement age. Working out which strategies work for your business requires research and understanding of the challenges as well as the benefits of retaining elderly employees.

The Benefits

A multigenerational workforce shouldn’t be too much of an issue on the face of it. An aging workforce has many benefits for employers, the chief of which is low absenteeism and turnover. Older workers tend to have strong work ethics and high productivity.

Most elderly workers also have experience and expertise to pass on to younger co-workers. Finally, older workers are less likely to engage in high-risk behavior than younger ones.

The Challenges

As valuable as elderly employees are, they may encounter certain difficulties that their younger colleagues may not. You may categorize these challenges into two main groups: technological and cultural.

Technological

The workplace is often the first place where new technology emerges, primarily because that’s where the money is. The challenge is to get elderly employees up to speed.

One of the main challenges for older employees in the modern workplace is keeping pace with rapid technological advancements. As technology evolves rapidly, older workers may encounter difficulties adapting to new tools, software, and digital platforms.

Employers must invest in training and support initiatives to overcome the digital divide and ensure all employees have the skills they need to thrive in an increasingly technology-driven environment.

Some older workers may also not be as comfortable with technology as their younger counterparts. While many older people are tech-savvy, some may hesitate to embrace new tools because they prefer the old way of doing things.

Experienced workers may say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It is up to employers to get buy-in from their most skilled employees when introducing new systems and platforms.

Cultural

One of the rising trends in workplace management is introducing diversity and inclusivity. In most cases, that focuses on race, ethnicity, and gender. However, age discrimination is also a significant issue. About one-third (30 percent) of American workers claim they experienced age discrimination in the workplace.

Many of the challenges that elderly employees encounter have their roots in misconceptions. Younger workers think older workers are generally slow, resistant to change, or lack technical skills.

The stereotype can result in hiring, promotion, and retention biases, limiting the opportunities for older workers. Employers must actively put these misconceptions in the workplace to rest and acknowledge older employees’ value.

Another issue is bridging the generation gap. Generational differences can sometimes pose challenges in the workplace, particularly in communication, work preferences, and attitudes toward authority.

Elderly workers may find it challenging to connect with younger colleagues or feel less comfortable voicing their opinions. Younger employees may expect different things regarding work-life balance, feedback, and career development. These differences can create friction or misunderstandings within multigenerational teams.

Fostering collaboration and cohesion across diverse age groups requires effective leadership and communication.

Technostress

One aspect of workplace culture may disproportionately affect elderly employees: technostress.

Technostress is the impact of mobile technology on employees’ personal lives, specifically the interruptions they cause.  Today many organizations require employees to respond to texts, calls, or messages after regular work hours, these can spill over into workers’ personal time, causing stress.

While younger workers may have no issue with it, most older workers find it intrusive. They are likelier to turn off their mobile devices than their younger colleagues.

Employers can mitigate this by educating elderly employees on controlling their devices. Sometimes, it could be as simple as going into their Android mobile phone settings to turn off work notifications after hours.

Other challenges

Elderly employees also grapple with additional issues, primarily related to their health. Age-related health challenges can impact their productivity and well-being in the workplace. For example, an elderly employee with arthritis may be unable to type or move as fast as needed. Caregiving responsibilities may also come into play, such as caring for an ailing parent.

Employers can accommodate these challenges with flexible work arrangements and comprehensive healthcare benefits. However, some may not provide this accommodation because of the associated costs. Despite their value to the workplace, elderly employees will retire at some point.

Many organizations plan for succession and knowledge transfer by encouraging older employees to participate in leadership development programs. That can help cultivate a talent pipeline and mitigate the risks associated with workforce aging and turnover. However, some people may be uncomfortable with taking on a mentoring role.

Old People Problems

Bette Davis once said, “Getting old is not for sissies.” That is certainly true for anyone working for a living because older people are often disadvantaged. They usually deal with real and imagined workplace technology issues while managing health and family challenges.

Employers can support elderly employees by taking a proactive and supportive approach to employee management. It takes strength of character and willpower to keep going despite difficulties.