The work force is aging as baby boomer move
toward retirement. Gen X managers need to learn how to motivate
and manage this talent pool of older workers. Both generations
have very different views of the other and will need to learn
how the other generation operates. It is up to the managers, Gen
X or otherwise, to take the lead and create the climate in which
older workers will remain engaged and productive.
Time Required: Varies
1. Throw out all your
You may think older workers are harder workers or that they are
difficult to train. Get rid of your stereotypes. Your older
workers are individuals just like everyone else in your group.
Treat them as such.
2. Remember the range of
You wouldn't treat a seasoned manager of 35 the same as a
21-year old right out of college. Don't think the 15 year gap is
any less in your older workers. A worker at 55 and a worker at
70 have different goals and needs. As a manager, you may need to
look at groups getting ready to retire (55-62), retirement age
and still working (62-70), and older worker who want to keep
active or who need to work (70+). Each group presents different
3. Communicate, communicate,
Don't assume that the older worker knows what you expect of
them. They don't have the same background as you. Be very clear
what you want done and what the measurements of completion and
of success will be. "Bill, take care of that for me" is not
enough. Try "Bill, I need you to prepare the department's budget
for the next fiscal year. Use the numbers from last year and add
10% on everything except training which should go up 15%. I need
it by Tuesday".
4. Value their life
Your older worker have been around. They have seen a lot. They
have done a lot. Recognize the value of this experience. Learn
from it. Encourage the younger members of your team to learn
from it. The lessons from the "school of hard knocks" are
5. Train them.
Older workers need training as much as younger workers - just as
much, just as often. The subject of the training may be
different, but the need is the same. And don't believe that
older workers can't be trained. They are just as receptive as
their younger peers.
6. Meet their security needs.
Older workers probably need benefits more than the younger
workers. They need medical coverage, vision care, and financial
planning. Make sure your company's benefits plan meets their
7. Motivate them.
Any manager's key job is to motivate their employees. Older
workers have different motivational "hot buttons" than their
younger counterparts. Opportunity for advancement is probably
less important than the recognition of a job well done, but see
step #1 above.
8. You don't have to "be the
The older workers grew up in a hierarchical society. They know
you are the boss. Most of them were bosses at some point too.
Get on with leading the department and don't waste time
posturing. It won't impress them anyway. They've seen it all
9. Be flexible.
Your older workers, depending on age group (see #2 above) may
want flexible hours or a shorter work week. For those of them
that need that, be willing to be flexible. You need their talent
and technical skill so do what you need to to keep it available.
Do not, however, assume that all older workers want to go home
early. Some may be motivated by working the same long, hard
hours that they have always done.
10. Use them as mentors.
Let them coach and encourage the younger workers. Most older
workers have a wealth of knowledge and experience that they
would love to pass on. Give them the opportunity to do so and
your entire organization will benefit.