The Ageing Workforce: How to Leverage the Experiences of Older Workers to Increase Employee Engagement

Workers aged 55+ experience greater engagement and lower likelihood of leaving an organisation if their workplace is age-inclusive, so why do fewer older workers than younger ones believe they have access to the training, managerial support and company culture to help them fit in?

This finding, from a study by the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR), highlights an opportunity for organisations to capitalise on the strengths of an aging workforce, leveraging the experience of mature workers to gain a competitive advantage.

With Gallup research showing businesses in the top-quartile for employee engagement enjoy approximately 20% more productivity and profitability than their bottom-quartile counterparts, supporting mature workers to enhance engagement makes a strong business case.

Mature workers bring experience and qualities that support a well-rounded company culture

Older workers bring a wealth of qualities and experience employers can leverage for better employee engagement. For example, older workers have a repository of wisdom and knowledge acquired over years of workplace and life experience. Millennials might bring university smarts and savvy tech skills to the table, but nothing can replace the lessons Baby Boomers have learned over years of workforce participation.

An older worker is also likely to have experienced company restructures, brand refreshes and managerial reshuffles, giving them skills at adapting to change. 

Furthermore, with data showing almost one third of Australia’s population will be older than 60 by 2050, the workforce will continue to evolve. Workplaces therefore need to ensure older workers have the knowledge, tools and training to do their jobs successfully in the face of ongoing technological development.

What actions can companies take to avoid age discrimination and capitalise on the strengths of older workers?

Importantly, the Australian Human Rights Commission notes The Age Discrimination Act 2004 prohibits workforce age discrimination. Members of Australia’s ageing workforce are therefore protected by law, with employers discriminating on the basis of age at any point (including when advertising jobs, recruiting, and deciding on training, promotions and firing) at risk of legal action.

With older employees typically experiencing good health and being willing to work, organizations have access to a pool of human resources to fill the talent gap and make forward progress. Employers can use several strategies to avoid age discrimination and leverage the skills and experience of the aging workforce to their advantage.

Encourage management to implement technology for older non-digital-natives

Almost all contemporary workplaces use technology and data in some form. For older workers who weren’t born with a device in hand, coming to grips with rapid and relentless technological change can be more difficult – but is far from impossible.

Employers can foster the development of tech skills in older workers by providing training and support. For example, you could run training sessions when you onboard new software, or buddy a young tech-savvy employee with an older one. 

You can also consider your older workers when selecting technology tools. Humanforce, for example, has an intuitive interface and convenient mobile app, making it easy to master while streamlining workflows and enhancing engagement.

Ensure your EVP speaks to older workers as well as younger workers

Your employee value proposition (EVP) is key to attracting and retaining quality talent. But does yours consider the needs of a multigenerational workforce? Perks that drive Millennials to Instagram faster than a hipster can down a decaf almond latte may make Baby Boomers’ eyes glaze over. 

CEPAR research from 2021 crystallised how employers can better recruit, deploy, and retain older workers into three strategies:

  1. Include – implement processes that integrate workers of all ages. For example, offer workplace-wide training opportunities and carer leave.

  2. Individualise – ensure workers of all ages feel they can act with agency and have opportunities for challenging and meaningful new roles or assignments.

  3. Integrate – by sharing knowledge and advice between co-workers of various ages, for example.

Humanforce has been designed to enhance worker agency and autonomy. Employees can select shifts based on their availability, giving them greater control over their lives. Older workers can choose shifts around caring responsibilities, for example, or bid for extra shifts when they have more free time.

Invest in automation and AI for aging workers

As noted, a key finding from the CEPAR survey was the desire for challenging and satisfying work opportunities. Investing in automation and AI tools is an easy way to reduce or eliminate mundane job tasks, freeing your ageing workforce to work on higher value activities. Significantly, AI and automation can help members of your ageing workforce who are struggling to keep up with workplace technology changes.

For example, Humanforce’s simple drop and drag functionality allows fast, efficient rostering, releasing time for more rewarding HR tasks. Shift-based, deskless workers can easily choose shifts and upload work expenses on the go, saving time and hassle.

Automating repetitive tasks also reduces the chance of errors and speeds up operations, while tools like workforce analytics can generate actionable insights in a few clicks.

Inclusion of the aging workforce increases a sense of community

CEPAR’s data also emphasises the importance of caring for your aging workforce and ensuring they feel included. They note an inclusive workplace helps all employees, irrespective of their age, know they are ‘welcomed as fully contributing members of their organisation, and are valued for their unique characteristics.’

With built-in communication tools, Humanforce encourages collaboration and information sharing. It also provides opportunities to reward great work, helping employees know their contributions are valued.

Improve on needs of deskless ageing workers

Your deskless worker experience is vital to your EVP and corporate reputation, but employers may need to think harder to find ways to integrate and celebrate their deskless older workers. Contemporary workforce management software like Humanforce can help. Built from the ground up for shift-based deskless workers, Humanforce allows employers and managers to support workers regardless of their working times and locations, while fostering greater visibility and employee autonomy.

Techniques to support your older workers and enhance employee engagement

In summary, organizations can make optimum use of an ageing workforce by:

  • Refusing to discriminate based on age

  • Integrating workers of different ages in the workplace

  • Acknowledging and utilising their wisdom and experience

  • Ensuring older workers feel included and valued for their contributions

  • Providing a sense of autonomy and meaningful work opportunities

  • Giving older employees the training, tools and technology to do their jobs well.

Like to know more about how the Humanforce software can support your older workers and  transform your organisation’s employee engagement experience? Get in touch today to schedule a demonstration.