On Friday, we celebrated National Senior Citizens Day. As seniors citizens’ ranks grow, be sure you have a plan to engage senior citizen employees!
The role of senior citizens in society has changed dramatically in recent decades. They’re the fastest growing age demographic, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and they’re choosing to work now more than ever. Workplaces especially need to adapt.
Seniors in the workplace crave engagement (like the rest of us) and opportunities to learn and add value. Don’t miss out on all the contributions their maturity and experience can add to your workplace!
Read on for tips on how to engage senior citizen employees and why it’s increasingly important in today’s workplace.
Why We Celebrate National Senior Citizen Day
In 1988, Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation formalizing National Senior Citizen Day. He called for a day to honor older citizens “for all they have achieved throughout life and for all they continue to accomplish.”
Senior citizens are “reinforcing their historical roles as leaders” in new ways, thanks to improved health care and longer productivity, Reagan wrote.
“Many older people are embarking on second careers, giving younger Americans a fine example of responsibility, resourcefulness, competence and determination,” he wrote. “Wherever the need exists, older people are making their presence felt — for their own good and that of others.”
That trend continues nearly three decades later.
“It’s the latest thing in retirement: not retiring. More workers are planning to continue in the workforce past age 65, and some plan to never retire,” according to the July CNBC article, “Are Workplaces Ready for Older Workers?”
Participation in the U.S. workforce still drops steadily after age 60, but a 2014 Gallup poll shows that the ranks of remaining older workers are more likely to be engaged than younger workers.
Senior citizen employees now are “involved in and enthusiastic about their work and more productive members of their workplace,” Gallup concludes.
Still, older workers still aren’t as engaged as they could be. As with the general population of employees, employers are lagging in comprehensive engagement.
How to Engage Senior Citizen Employees
Engaging older workers boils down to four elements:
- recognition and gratitude
- not making assumptions
According to a study by Boston College’s Sloan Center on Aging & Work, “an enormous gulf” exists between older workers’ values, needs, and how well they feel employers fulfill those needs. This gap is widest when it comes to on-the-job learning, development and advancement. Like their younger counterparts, older employees want meaningful work that offers opportunities to improve their skills.
Why aren’t they getting it? Because employers make assumptions based on stereotype, not reality.
“A lot of employers make the assumption that older workers are either not interested in learning and training or — worst case — get annoyed about having to learn something new,” Sloan Center director Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes tells Forbes.
“But that’s not the case. They want to be challenged and learn new things,” she says. Workers who are challenged feel respected, valued and trusted.
Interestingly, the Sloan Center study finds that pay and benefits don’t rank first as key elements of a quality job.
Coming in at #1? “Promotion of constructive relationships at the workplace.” Pitt-Catsouphes describes this as “relationships that help you get the work done in a positive way.”
Like all employees, senior citizen employees want a work environment where their work is appreciated and recognized regularly. Your company engagement plan should ensure that all employees feel appreciated and recognized, not just the young up-and-coming stars.
Older workers offer experience, maturity and stability — and, as waves of the Baby Boom generation reach senior-citizen status, they’re increasingly curious, eager to work and ready to keep learning!
For more great tips and insights into building a vibrant culture of engagement and recognition, be sure to download our free e-book, “The Top 20 Employee Engagement Blogs You Should be Reading.”
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