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Working with Seniors in a Hybrid Workplace

Working with Seniors in a Hybrid Workplace

By EmployDiversity

Learn how today's Seniors are more savvy in the workplace than younger generations presume.

By 2028, workers over the age of 54 will represent 23.9 percent of the labor force, predicts the Bureau of Labor Statistics – up from 18.1 percent in 2018. According to the Bureau's projected labor growth data for seniors, from 2016 to 2026:

  • The total number of active workers between the ages of 55 and 64 will increase nearly 40%
  • The senior labor force in the 65-to-74 age group is expected to rise by about 85%
  • The number of seniors  over the age of 75 is also expected to grow 85%.

The labor market will become flush with talent and experience in a way never seen before in the United States. Today's seniors are bringing into the workforce two paradoxical benefits: many are remote work savvy; and many, in face-to-face work environments, have the kind of experience and skills younger generations of staff are seeking.

Why the Increase in the Senior Talent Pool?

Several kinds of retirees are reentering the job market: those who must continue on in the workforce for financial reasons, those who wish to remain busy with work, and those who feel the need for a lifestyle change in the wake of the traumas of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The first group of “work to live” seniors may have insufficient funds to make ends meet. Further, increases in the cost of living and longevity see them ready and willing to keep on working. 

Another group of seniors want to work because they may want to top off their income, or they may enjoy working or find it a good way to socialize. 

Meanwhile, those who seek a lifestyle change have found themselves laid off and not rehired during the Pandemic; or they've found the stress of working in what they considered unsafe environments to be too much for them, and so left their jobs; or they took to early retirement to spend more time pursuing what they valued more highly than their previous jobs.

Whatever group of seniors, though, one demographic truth is bearing down fast on organizations: people are living longer. They are outliving their retirement savings — if they had any to begin with — and they are remaining vibrant later in life than any preceding generation. The trends are presenting significant opportunities and challenges for enterprises and non-profits.  

The Challenges

The most significant challenge facing organizations is integrating seniors with corporate cultures that have younger staff. Millenials, for instance, will have social, cultural, and even personal references between themselves that only they get. The differences between seniors and non-seniors can be as pronounced as that between Millenials and their middle-aged counterparts. 

Other characteristics that distinguish seniors from younger workers include:    

  • Diminished physical strength and dexterity
  • Not digital natives
  • Not up on latest corporate speak, jargon, social references, etc.

A lack of strength and dexterity may present seniors with barriers to effectiveness in logistics, warehousing, transportation, and manufacturing. Diminished physical strength is not much of an issue in an office setting, however.

Digital technology defines the modern office. While upwards of three-quarters of seniors are comfortable navigating the internet, they may not be as familiar with spreadsheets, databases, and digital communications like Slack. 

Similarly, seniors may not be familiar with current corporate-speak. They may also have difficulty meeting the pace of 21st-century office work, especially in startups. 

Employing seniors, though, and integrating them into the workplace may actually be no more challenging than hiring Millennials, who come with their own predilections. Instead, potential employers have to weigh the opportunities for growth and development seniors offer enterprises.

How Seniors Benefit Some Industries

Seniors have a great many attributes Millenials do not and cannot offer because of their age and lack of real-world experience. Some of the benefits seniors bring to organizations include:

  • Know-how
  • Avoiding recurring mishaps
  • Not reinventing the wheel
  • Face-to-face communication is natural
  • Hard workers who value work

Seniors have decades of experience they are eager to share with the world. Work is one of the best channels through which they feel they can improve an environment. 

Given well-defined means of communication in a team setting, they can suggest where approaches to problems may lead to dead ends or be expensive misadventures. They can also offer more efficient solutions that can help workgroups avoid starting endeavors from scratch. 

One of the greatest strengths seniors bring to bear in a work setting involves their sociability. Whereas younger generations that grew up with social media tend to avoid social interaction, seniors tend to seek out and develop positive relationships. They like engaging others. They also learned long ago that solving problems with others face-to-face is far more effective and efficient than corresponding through email.

And they like to share with previous generations the things they learned during their previous work-life. They like to share how to build personal networks, how to present oneself in meetings, how to establish a rapport with managers.

Further, because of the Lockdown periods during the Pandemic, seniors have become more savvy in how to use digital technology. Many use video conferencing software like Zoom and Google Hangouts to stay in touch with family and friends. They use Facebook and messaging apps as readily as they use the telephone. And they are not afraid to ask for help when confronted with technology issues.

Moreover, seniors have learned the value of work. They work hard and will work as long as the job requires as long as they are physically able. This ingrained characteristic benefits organizations immeasurably when projects require a long-term commitment from employees.

Emphasize the Benefits, Train to Overcome the Challenges

Depending on the industry, integrating seniors into corporate cultures can present challenges. However, the benefits of hiring seniors far outweigh the time and expense involved in getting them productive. By some measures, the investment involved in acculturating experienced seniors is less than that for Millennials. 

Millennials tend to have very strong views on how they should contribute to the organization and the impact they are destined to make in the world. The attitudes can sometimes impede a team’s productivity instead of enhancing it. Training alone is not sufficient to bring the younger generation into the corporate fold. Seniors, though, feel they’ve made their mark in the world, they’ve taken their shot, and now they just want to contribute positively to others. 

Training seniors on corporate-speak, digital technologies, and other nuts-and-bolts of navigating the modern workplace is a trivial investment compared to the rewards they have to offer.