Leveraging Experience

With time in the workplace comes experience—experience that an employer must capture to succeed. How does a company evaluate that experience and see that it is valued across the organization? How does it ensure that it does not foster a climate of ageism?

The Conference Board research found that mature workers are often the first to take advantage of their own experience. According to the 2008 Executive Action paper "Can They Take It? What Happens When Older Employees Work Overtime," longer company tenure brings an understanding of what does and does not work in creating products and services. Armed with this knowledge, older workers can maximize operational efficiencies—for their companies and themselves. The paper, which focuses on what happens when older employees work overtime, finds that while mature workers may not be able to work physically harder, they may have the capacity to work mentally smarter. Thanks to their experience, they better understand the demands associated with certain tasks and temper them to avoid the risk of physical injury.

Even while their physical and mental capacities remain strong, mature workers do contemplate retirement. While companies understand that they risk losing experience when older workers leave, few have a systematic plan for capturing that experience and communicating it to a new generation of workers. But in Gray Skies, Silver Linings: How Companies Are Forecasting, Managing, and Recruiting a Mature Workforce and Bridging the Gaps: How to Transfer Knowledge in Today’s Multigenerational Workplace, The Conference Board highlights several companies that cultivate, capture, and pass on experience.

Prominent among them is Deere & Company. The construction and agricultural equipment company has traditionally expected workers to find lifelong careers in its operations. Therefore, it actively helps employees take on new assignments. "There’s no letting up because you’re getting close to retirement," a company executive told researchers.

The same report also highlights GlaxoSmithKline’s strategy. The pharmaceutical giant has affinity groups that support its mature workers’ efforts while enabling them to mentor and develop younger workers. These groups have two target audiences: mid-career and older employees, and early career employees. These groups cross-mentor, with mature workers guiding young professionals, who, in turn educate older employees on current technology and social networking. Although these groups have target audiences, they are open to workers of all ages, making them an effective tool for addressing multigenerational issues in the workplace.


Report credit: Kent Greenes and Diane Piktialis, Bridging the Gaps: How to Transfer Knowledge in Today’s Multigenerational Workplace, The Conference Board, Research Report 1428, 2008, p. 11.

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