Are you tapping into the potential of your older team members?

An article written by Matt Johns, Humankind, for Southern Cross, August 2018

In an age where a lot of discussion centres on the needs of Millennials and automation, valuing the individual contributions of all employees is becoming increasingly important.

Diversity & inclusion is a term that we’ve all heard of, yet the emphasis in recent years seems to be disproportionately focused on diversity at the expense of inclusiveness. 

Of course, diversity is incredibly important for the social fabric of all organisations. Both from a cultural perspective and through benefiting from a wider, richer mindset. One of the best ways of achieving this desired state is by valuing and engaging with all groups – including the older folk in our teams. As Statistics New Zealand figures show, the number of New Zealanders aged over 65 today is some 756,000 or 15% of the population. By 2038 that number is projected to be 1,340,000 or 21% of the population! 

In fact, our research also shows that while staff in large organisations tend to retire between 65 and 67, those in smaller organisations work much longer often well into their 70’s!
 
In truth, older members of your team have a lot to offer. Not least because they have incredible experiences to draw on and unique perspectives to share. But really tapping into this potential needs to be a deliberate exercise – it won’t happen by chance. 

There are a number of things to consider and keep in mind when seeking to engage the older members of your teams
:

  • Get them involved: With so much focus on Millennials, we often forget to involve our older people. This tends to be because they tolerate more and choose not to proactively get involved. They need to be invited to discuss challenges and opportunities – through conversation, not through surveys. Simply ask for their opinion and you might be surprised at the good ideas that they come up with. This personal touch makes a big difference in engagement.
  • Same, but different same: We repeatedly hear how much younger generations need from their employer. Whether it be a clear purpose, meaningful work, social and environmental benefits, developmental opportunities and new challenges. In truth, this is exactly the same for older generations – they are just not used to asking for it. However, there are specific things this group do need and will benefit from, including flexible hours for those already working with you, and age neutral recruitment policies to attract more experience into your business. And of course, older generations will really value your investment in health insurance far more at this stage in their life. 
  • Tap into their leadership capability: One thing that successful modern businesses enjoy is a real sense of community – across cultural backgrounds and across age groups. A really effective way of encouraging this is through reverse mentoring. This idea means younger team members team up with older employees to teach them new skills and technology that they may not be familiar with. Not only does this help with upskilling, but it also forges new meaningful relationships right across the business. The real benefit comes from older members of the team as they share their experience with younger staff, broadening their perspective and helping them to make better, more informed decisions.

Deliberately designing strategies to include the older members of your team is not just a great social exercise, it can also offer great business benefits. So where could you start?

Having worked in experience design and strategy for the past decade, Matt brings a unique perspective on what he calls, Employee Experience. Matt has worked with organisations across the world connecting business strategy with deliberately designed customer and employee experience strategy. He uses his diverse background to push leaders beyond the obvious to make clear, commercially astute, strategic choices.

 

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