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How to take care of your older staff

In a 2021 Treasury report, Australia’s ageing population was cited as the country’s biggest demographic challenge–but in the workplace, it isn't as much of a challenge as it seems. 

caring for older staff

How to take care of your older staff

In a 2021 Treasury report, Australia’s ageing population was cited as the country’s biggest demographic challenge–but in the workplace, it isn't as much of a challenge as it seems. 

As people are working later in their lives, more companies are experiencing the benefit of a multigenerational team. Older staff members are invaluable to any business because of their experience and input. 

They've walked the walk and understand what it's like to work with different company processes–both within your organisation and from their previous workplaces. It's almost second nature to them at this point–so it's essential to give them attention and focus too.

Ensuring that older staff members are happy with their work environment is a crucial part of building your business. Because of their past work experience,  they can help you weather the storms of growing your business, which is a process that can be broken down into five stages that come at their own pace.

Scaling up your business will be more challenging if everyone on your team is unfamiliar with your projected expansion and the requirements of space for your organisation’s growth. The insight of older staff members can give you a better understanding of how to go about the process.

Why do older staff members require special attention and focus?

Many business articles are about how to take care of the newest generations and, while those are important, remember to pay attention to the employees who have been around a while too. Maybe their needs have evolved or their communication style has changed. It's up to you to adapt and keep making them feel like they're part of the team.

Millennials have started to outnumber older generations at workplaces around the world, so business leaders are increasingly seeing mixed groups of staff members in varying stages of their careers. 

You may be offending more seasoned employees by unwittingly adopting harmful biases, eventually losing their trust and respect. In a recent survey conducted by the Journal of Organisational Behaviour, some of the reasons that older staff members gave as to why they felt stigmatised in the office or why they were unhappy with a younger manager include:

  • Leaders show preferential treatment toward younger workers
  • The boss gets defensive when older staff members question their decision
  • Managers assume older staff members don't know how to do certain things
  • Leaders assume older staff members don't know how to use certain technologies

Paying attention to the needs of more experienced staff members also supports your team’s productivity. Recognising and rewarding their efforts, while making a genuine effort to understand where your employees are coming from, fosters more collaboration as well.

Considering all staff members’ needs and adjusting to their communication styles helps build bonds, boosting productivity as a team. Older staff members and less experienced employees both deserve the same opportunities to learn, flourish and pick up new skills. Reaching out to employees and trying to meet them where they are shows you’re interested in their perspective and contributions as individuals, and not just their output, which benefits your business as you continue to grow and scale.

5 ways to manage your older staff members

Managing older staff members ultimately comes down to recognising their merits and perspectives while providing them with ample opportunities to develop their skills and recognising their unique workplace or training needs.

  1. Communicate clearly

Misunderstandings will happen if you’re indirect with any staff member, more so if you’re reconciling a generational gap too, so it’s important to get on the same page.

You have your own way of getting your message across, but older staff members may not immediately understand you if you’re not mindful of how you approach them.

Engage with your older direct reports in one-on-ones; talk about your vision and goals for the team. Leverage how they come with experience and can help you refine your ideas. Starting a dialogue and staying open to feedback shows your team that you’re committed to building an inclusive workplace for everyone. 

Communicating with older staff members can require a period of adjustment, but ultimately it’s a matter of understanding what motivates employees, how these motivations can be respected best and the most effective way to get everyone on the same page. 

  1. Show that you value your older staff

Older members are part of your team for good reason, so it’s important to focus on the value they bring to your organisation. 

Your team is composed of talented and committed people, but you would still do well to know exactly how they contribute best to the organisation. It’s difficult to say you value your staff when you provide them with tasks that leave them feeling out of their depth.

Assign staff members a project close to their prior experience and interest–if there’s an opportunity to have an employee provide the idea behind the project, then get them to lead it. 

Give them support and guidance when they need it, but there’s no need to look over their shoulder. The more you show you trust your staff, they feel their work is good enough to speak for itself.

This way you’re recognising your staff member’s expertise, empowering them to grow and inspire other members of the team to be creative.

  1. Provide professional development opportunities and training

Aside from giving all team members equal opportunities to sharpen their skills in the field, older staff members will benefit from separate training that gets them up to speed for the workplace that they’re moving into. 

Don’t count them out so quickly; older staff members benefit from upskilling as much as younger team members. They may just need additional topics aside from your basic program.

It’s a harmful ageist stereotype to assume older staff members are lost in front of a computer. For example, many older staff members are masters of Excel and programming but may need a proper introduction to your team’s cloud-based project management software. 

In addition to occupational workshops, training on soft skills can help older workers reach new levels of efficiency and productivity. Lessons about how to improve communication, increase active listening and resolve conflicts can even boost collaboration between older and younger employees.

When you support older staff members and create an environment where anyone can pick up new skills, you reinforce a collaborative work culture that will support the team’s creativity. 

  1. Reward longevity

Show older staff members that their time with your organisation is appreciated, and encourage them to continue supporting your company for a longer period of time.

Older staff members need to know you value their contributions to the team, and not in just a one-off way that tends to read disingenuous. Providing incentives and celebrating milestones like 5, 10 or 15-year work anniversaries in the company is a consistent way to recognise employees.

Encouraging older staff members to share their input and utilise their contributions to the organisation is also a tactic for rewarding the longevity of their service. 

Creating a practice that shows respect for ageing within the frame of the workplace ties in with polite traditions and shows younger staff members that there is value in the accumulation of knowledge, including knowledge that is associated with experience. 

It’s also a stereotype to think that older staff members are unwilling or unable to move on in their careers and cannot meet the standards of today’s work life. A career policy that considers mature employees’ needs and adapts to their varied professional development goals can even attract them to stay in their jobs.

  1. Offer flexible scheduling

All employees will be grateful for flexible working arrangements, especially older staff members who also tend to have family and private life responsibilities, as well as just getting used to less traditional setups. 

Business leaders have discovered how flexible scheduling allows employees to work when they’re most productive, while also ensuring they accomplish all their tasks efficiently. 

Older staff members will benefit from this same consideration, and even assigning particular days for them to work in a dedicated office will help support their adjustment to the situation. Working in an office allows for even faster communication and collaboration, so team members will be able to build rapport while putting in the effort to reach business goals.

Taking care of your older staff members is a matter of recognising their valuable insight and time-tested expertise while understanding their motivations and needs. They bring essential input and perspective to your organisation, so as a business leader the environment you create needs to be as proactive, mindful and dynamic as the contributions of staff members. 

Ready to support your most senior member of the team? Book a tour with us and let’s bring your inclusive workplace to the next level.


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