Creating Age Friendly Workplaces – The Next New Thing? By Robin Trimingham
There has been a lot of attention drawn to the plight of older workers and incidents of age discrimination in the workplace, but it is beginning to look as though the tide may be starting to turn.
A passing comment by client last week got me thinking about the immense value that older workers bring to the workplace and how increasing the mandatory retirement age is likely to change the world of work.
Her international company has recently moved to an open floorplan in which very high level employees sit together in teams. This means that a couple of the company’s most robust and charismatic seventy-year olds are now rubbing shoulders with twenty-something college graduates. Not surprisingly, some insiders initially wondered how this would work out, because older workers traditionally tend to view private office space as representative of one’s level of achievement and value to the company, but in this case the results have been extremely positive for all concerned. The older employees have enjoyed interacting with, and mentoring their younger colleagues, and the younger workers have learned a great deal from the stories and wisdom that has been shared.
According to Statistics Canada, by 2036 nearly one in four Canadians will be aged 65 or older (nearly 25% of the total population ) meaning that it will quickly become essential for employers figure out how to attract, keep and re-energize older workers in order to remain competitive. To help prepare for this, the Canadian Government has established a an intergovernmental Forum to share information, discuss new and emerging issues related to seniors which has published a paper on promoting older worker participation in an age friendly workplace.
Among the many issues and benefits discussed, the report highlights the following:
- older workers tend to remain with employers for longer periods, resulting in fewer costs for hiring and training new staff
- older workers tend to have a strong work ethic, work well in team settings and require minimal supervision, potentially increasing productivity
- older workers have a strong desire to remain relevant through continuous learning and making use of their abilities, even as they approach retirement.
- Many older workers plan on remaining connected to the workforce in some way when they retire from their primary career
- Increasingly, employees do not view retirement as a set event, but rather a gradual process including Phased retirement can take various forms, including everything from a gradual reduction in work hours to part-time work or job sharing
- Many individuals would continue to work if they could work part-time (47%), collect their pension and wage at the same time (38%), or work from home (35%).
Like the “hot desks” favored by Apple and open plan seating, some of these ideas may take time to catch on, but there is no doubt that there is a place for older workers as valued employees in the office of tomorrow.
By Robin Trimingham