Working with mature workers

By: Iva Plocheva 03-11-2015

Categories:** HR Diversity Management, ** HR Mature workers , 50+,

Unless you work or manage a team where everybody fits the same list of criteria, it is inevitable that you'll encounter various situations of diversity. This will often involve working with mature workers. Most people will begin to interact by communicating with certain expectations and a specific mindset. However, these stereotypes can often be damaging.

The Netherlands, like many other countries in Europe, is faced with the challenge of an ageing population. This has a direct impact on the labour market. According to The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the number of people aged over 65, measured in proportion to those aged 20-64, will double from 27% in 2012 to 52% in 2050.

Early retirement and disability schemes have now been replaced with a raise in the retirement age, which minimises the chance to take an early retirement. With statistics like these coming to light, the issue of ageing and employment has gained considerable attention over the last decade.

The emphasis has shifted towards the importance of establishing and developing successful policies which can adapt to the rapidly changing circumstances. These new policies have been focused on three main issues:

Giving better incentives to carry on working,

Tackling barriers that employers encounter,

Improving the employability of older workers.

While authorities are taking action to successfully manage the issue of ageing and employment, it is also is important for managers and employees to get a good grasp on the issues of working with mature workers. Often it is the case that mature workers will be associated with certain stereotypes.

Some of these stereotypes are that mature workers have poor performance, that they are resistant to change or that they have lower ability to learn. These are all negative preconceptions related with age. However, age is an indirect factor influencing performance. As such, it goes both ways for young and mature employees.

For example, experience, knowledge, and ability levels are factors that have a direct influence on an employees performance and these are factors that are often unrelated to age. Using age as the only variable for defining either positive or negative performance is a limited statement. Understanding this can be a great advantage for managers as well as employees.

A golden rule for approaching diversity is not to get blinded by stereotypes but also not to close one’s eyes for the existence of it. Variety is the key to success and understanding it is very beneficial. Division in the office space in generations X and Y, baby-boomers and the upcoming generation of post-millennials, is not the most effective way to create a good work environment; it is a natural basic behaviour.

On one side, rising above prejudice between generations is a good first step towards managing a successful multi-aged workforce. On the other hand, taking consideration towards those differences can also be quite an advantage in avoiding conflicts. Different generations will have different points of view and mindsets over issues of work-life balance, rules of the workspace, ways and means of communication, etc. This is a given fact. Knowing this and being prepared beforehand can narrow down the generation gap at the work place.

This is especially important for younger managers that need to manage and motivate their older workers. There are key aspects that need to be remembered. Acknowledging the age difference is important but not only by placing workers in young and mature categories, but also by remembering the range of ages and what those generations are accustomed to. There will be a difference in the work mentality of a fifty-five and a sixty-five year old person. Furthermore, abandoning assumptions is of great importance. They should be replaced by creating and establishing a good communication flow. Moreover, not getting intimidated by age difference or the opposite, establishing a management style of proving dominance are two absolutes that should be avoided.

Working with mature workers can be a challenge. However, it is a quite common situation on the work floor. Therefore, carfully understanding the do's and don’ts is necessary for establishing effective performance and maintaining a conflict free environment.

By: Iva Plocheva