As with every component of their workforces, companies must evaluate and manage their mature workers, and plan for the transition of the roles they fill. Demographic trends have also driven some industries to actively recruit mature workers. The Mature Workforce Initiative looks at assessment, succession, managing, and recruitment, as well as ways in which employers may avoid ageism.
According to the 2008 Executive Action paper "Can They Take It? What Happens When Older Employees Work Overtime," age alone is not a risk in overtime assignments. Older workers can neutralize or even reverse the risks of working longer hours because they are able to better assess the difficulties of an assignment and avoid them.
The report Gray Skies, Silver Linings: How Companies Are Forecasting, Managing, and Recruiting a Mature Workforce contains multiple examples of companies that have found productive ways to manage their aging workforces. To succeed, organizations must show respect for older workers, listen to them, and meet their needs. Companies that want to learn how to successfully implement phased retirement should look at the report’s case studies on Bon Secours and contracting firm Your Encore, which specializes in providing client companies with highly skilled retirees on a project basis. These employers understand what it takes to keep retired or retirement-eligible talent working.
The report also suggests ways for businesses to recruit and retain mature workers, such as partnering with other companies, government, and nonprofits to identify mature workers who fit their needs. Case studies illustrate the recruiting efforts at Busch entertainment, CVS Caremark, and Westpac Banking. "One of the biggest mistakes we made at first was focusing on an acquisition-based strategy," says an executive at the Australian banking giant. "We learned that to get age balance in our population, we need to consider retention of our current employees."
The legal guide produced in conjunction with the Mature Workforce Initiative, Putting Experience to Work: A Guide to Navigating Legal and Management Issues Relating to a Mature Workforce, stresses that not managing older employees is not an option. Companies that fail to build comprehensive records of employee performance or that simply give mature workers a "pass" are not managing their workforces to their full potential. If they are not careful when they later assess their workers, they could find themselves accused of attempting to weed out older workers.
Report credit: Mary Young, with Diane Piktialis, and Anna Rappaport, Gray Skies, Silver Linings: How Companies Are Forecasting, Managing, and Recruiting a Mature Workforce, The Conference Board, Research Report 1409, p. 73, 2007.