9 tips for engaging older workers
Older workers' knowledge and experience may be your company's greatest asset - not just to the company, but to your health and safety culture. It’s critical to keep them engaged and supported.
"As the workplace and workforce change, older workers can become disengaged for a number of reasons," says Kristy Cork, Health and Safety Consultant (Workplace Mental Health) at Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS). These can include:
- not being perceived by others as a valuable asset,
- a preference for traditional ways of working,
- difficulty adapting to new technology,
- reporting to a younger/less experienced manager,
- different learning styles from other workers.
"What's more, disengagement can lead to mental health issues, such as stress, depression and anxiety. Other possible consequences include reduced productivity and retention, and increased conflict or misunderstandings with other workers," notes Cork.
To help organizations engage and benefit from older workers' life experience, institutional knowledge and skills, she offers the following nine tips:
- Provide refresher health & safety training to all workers on key topics so that older workers don't feel singled out and can see other workers accepting the desired practices and behaviour.
- Acknowledge and leverage the experience of older workers. Highlight the good work they've done over the years, and find ways for them to actively contribute their knowledge and skills.
- Create opportunities where older workers can lend their experience and insights to special projects and other initiatives.
- Pair older workers with younger workers. Older workers have a key role to play as coaches and mentors.
- Help older workers engage with new technologies. For example, in one healthcare facility the prospect of a new charting system had older nurses upset because they thought it detracted from their nursing duties. To address this, older workers were invited to help the working group find a way to use the new system that made sense to them. Plus, these workers were encouraged to set the pace of change.
- Help older workers gain confidence by consulting with them on matters where experience is important.
- Manage your own expectations with respect to how much time older workers need to pick up new skills.
- Ensure that supervisors and managers understand and are able to adapt to generational differences when it comes to learning styles, work styles, and worker expectations. An effective manager will seek to understand the unique needs of their workers and adapt accordingly to minimize the risk of psychological harm.
- Ensure the worker and the job are still a good fit. Can the worker meet the physical and cognitive demands of the job? If not, can the job be adapted to the worker? Conduct a demands analysis of not just the physical requirements of the job, but the cognitive ones as well.
This article was prepared by Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS), helping Ontario businesses improve health and safety for over 100 years. For more information, visit wsps.ca or contact WSPS at firstname.lastname@example.org.