Q: How do I encourage my older workers not to leave the business?
Older workers often have valuable skills and knowledge about the business that the organisation wants to and needs to retain. Losing these skills can be a cost to the business. It's also important to consider the needs and expectations of customers, many of whom may have formed close relationships with older staff members and will be keen to see their skills and expertise retained within the business. However, mature workers will have different needs from other employees at other stages of their careers. They may be keen to move away from the nine to five working commitment to enable them to have more time to pursue other interests. Redesigning the way they work within the business may be the key to retaining their skills and expertise for a period of time that suits both parties. There are various ways to encourage older workers to stay within the business. These may include flexible working arrangements - for instance, shorter days, late starts or even job sharing.
Older workers with jobs that are physically demanding may welcome the opportunity to take on a more sedentary role. Other attractive options may include unpaid leave, working on specific projects where they engage for set periods of time, and working from home.
Q: How do businesses encourage older workers to share their knowledge with others in the business?
Encouraging older workers to share their skills and knowledge with the other generations in the firm begins with creating a culture in which sharing ideas and skills is valued. Employees will more readily share their knowledge in an environment where everyone works together to be successful rather than a culture that encourages individuals to compete against each other. Let older workers know that their skills and expertise are recognised and important. Give them the opportunity to mentor younger workers; it is highly likely that they'll enjoy the opportunity to impart their knowledge. Consideration should also be given to acknowledging and rewarding their mentoring role and could take the form of a bonus payment, time off, vouchers or a gift of some description.
As valued employees it is very likely that they, too, will be concerned about the gap their departure would create for the business and would welcome the chance to share their skills. Depending on their role, it may also be worthwhile for older workers to host seminars with small groups of their colleagues.
Q: For SMEs that have staff in their 50s, how soon should they be thinking about future workforce planning and how do they approach it with staff?
It is never too soon to discuss with your staff their plans for the future. Talking about their aspirations and career plans should be part of your regular annual career conversation with each employee. For some, this may focus on growth opportunities within or outside the business. For older workers it may focus on how and when or even if they wish to reduce their working hours and how that might work for them and the organisation.
Reece Notton is head of the career team at Grafton, www.grafton.co.nz