Can we convince older workers to “come back”?
With our healthcare system in a human resources freefall, as some would suggest, re-recruiting retired workers may be a possibility if employers can make their employment options more attractive.
Employment in later life needs to truly be “personally meaningful, flexible, intellectually stimulating, sociable, age-inclusive and able to offer any adjustments a potential worker might need to accommodate their health conditions and disabilities,” claim Marvell and Cox in report for the UK’s Centre for Ageing Better (2017).
Research also shows that there are a number of misconceptions about older workers such as: they are less productive employees (reality is the ability to perform routine or repetitive tasks are not influenced by age), they are quick to retire (in truth they do not see retirement as a set event but rather a gradual process), they are less receptive to training (they actually have a preference to work in challenging environments that improve skill sets and careers) and training is not cost-effective (matter of fact, they are loyal and less likely to change jobs).
Nothing much has changed since the aforementioned report was published except, of course, the significant impact of COVID on workplaces and workers in recent times.
Whether having an occupation for financial reasons, to keep mentally fit, or as a means of giving back, attracting talent from a pool of mature, experienced workers, requires:
• designing roles that offer autonomy, flexible hours, short term assignments and consulting or part time contracts
• changes to ensure equality for women in male dominated workplaces
• finding appropriate assistive technologies, equipment or tools to make work easier
• providing variety in tasks and responsibilities
• facilitating inclusion and social interaction on all levels
• adjusting based on possible health conditions and disabilities that a worker may have
• offering retraining, a chance to learn new skills or mentorships
• considering attractive full or partial benefits programs
Unlike their younger counterparts, money is sometimes not the motivator for over 55-year-olds with pensions, savings or simpler lives than they used to have. There are however, exceptions with a number of older women in particular living below the poverty line who need to remain at work in their later years.
Accepting or remaining on the job often boils down to personal fulfillment, the ability to stay well and be respected in the role. As, Marvell and Cox suggest, “To stay or return older workers need to find work that matters and is valued, and they need to feel that their employer is supporting them and their needs are taken seriously.”