Guest blogger Jennifer Moss is the author of a Unlocking Happiness at Work and co-founder of Plasticity Labs, a technology firm that helps people to be happier and higher performing. Here, she writes about coping with the stresses of ageing in the workplace.
The workplace is quickly changing. For those employees aged between 50 and 70 (also referred to as the Baby Boomer generation) it may feel like change is happening faster and with greater impact than ever before. Although the boomer generation is currently the largest in the workforce, by 2017, the Millennial generation will hold that title. And, combining the different cultures, personalities and experiences in a a multi-generational workforce can create plenty of stress – for all employees whatever their age.
Research has shown that boomers identify their strengths as organisational memory, gratitude for a job, optimism, and a willingness to work long hours. Boomers grew up, professionally, in organisations with large corporate hierarchies and were generally willing to take on any role to advance another rung on the ladder. Speaking up or challenging the status quo could be cause for termination due to insubordination so Boomers often failed to speak up or challenge.
The generation before the Boomers; an office in the early 1950s
Millennials, on the other hand, have a dramatically different outlook on what they expect from their employment experience. The socially minded millennial also has a desire to be creative, innovative and heard. The millennial employee is interested in constant feedback on his or her performance; speaking up is expected, and challenging the status quo is linked to innovative thinking.
Although it seems like all the focus these days is on retaining the millennial employee, this is not the reality. But this common misconception is creating stress and fear in experienced employees. Older workers complain of feeling obsolete, replaceable and unsure of their future. However, the opposite is true. Many companies see the value of Boomers and many companies are doing their best to keep Boomers engaged and on the job.
A study from LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute found that 9 out of 10 employers are taking steps to help their employees work longer. Eight out of 10 employers said their organisations lose experience, institutional knowledge and leadership when an older worker leaves. And, since Baby Boomers currently hold nearly a third of all jobs and more than half of leadership positions, their exit is likely to create a significant brain drain.
Being an experienced and tenured employee can have plenty of benefits. For example:
- Knowledge that isn’t easily transferred
- Having a vast network of people to connect to within their industry
- Mastery of skills which are considered to increase overall happiness, productivity and engagement at work; something that can only come with practice, experience and effort over time.
Most experienced employees also know how to avoid and/or navigate office politics; an attribute that is highly valued by those in managerial or leadership roles who are looking to reduce volatility amongst staff.
Of course, it’s never too early or too late in anyone’s career to give their employers a reason to continue the retention efforts. Here are few ideas to consider:
The 2013 “Benefits for Tomorrow Study” by The Hartford found that 89% of Millennials believe, “Baby Boomers in the workplace are a great source of mentorship.” The practice of mentoring offers many advantages. In a workforce where companies value expertise, experience and skill over age, seniority or gender, employees of any age have the opportunity to educate and learn from each other. When more senior employees can train their younger colleagues, the passing down of accrued experience and knowledge helps maintain the company’s core values, mission and history.
The Value of Face-to-Face
Although there are concrete benefits to scaling communication through technology, experienced employees have the unique benefit of knowing the workforce before technology. This offers experienced employees the ability to share best practices for inter-personal relationship-building, a key attribute among the most successful sales people and front-line customer service staff. Face-to-face interactions can also be some of the best ways to nurture internal relations with co-workers, an important part of happy and healthy workplace cultures.
Explain the ‘Why’
When senior employees explain to new employees why they are passionate about their work, it develops a more unified and compassionate workplace culture. Whether it’s at the next staff meeting, in the canteen, or in a formal mentorship role, senior employees should take time to explain why they love what they do, and the company they work for. In turn this also leads to happier individuals and higher performing teams.
For many, employment offers a sense of productivity, accomplishment and pride. It makes sense that as employees age, they may feel stress about losing that daily experience. However, statistic suggest that employers are keen to retain older workers, and not just because of the cost of attrition, but for their ability to transfer knowledge, pass on inter-personal skills, manage office politics and create happier workplace cultures.
And, as everyone knows, Rome wasn’t built in a day; it takes time to create a happier workplace culture but with Boomers to lend their experience, the building should be less stressful.
About the author:
Jennifer Moss is the co-founder of Plasticity Labs, a technology company on a mission to give 1 billion people the tools to be happier and higher performing. She is also the author of a new book, Unlocking Happiness at Work, advising employees and leaders on how to increase happiness at work and in life. It is out now, published by Kogan Page, and available at Amazon, priced £11.99.
Do you find the workplace stressful? Or have you retired and miss work? Do tell us.
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