There is a common perception that people age 55 and over are simply waiting for retirement. People believe they’re disengaged, unwilling, or unable to keep up with modern developments and uninterested in their jobs. However, the research says otherwise, and as people continue to live and work longer, the views of mature workers need to be taken into consideration. So, how do mature workers feel about the work environment? What do they need from their work and their employers? These are some of the issues we will explore in this blog post based on available research.
What Mature Employees Value
Mature workers are more likely to continue working if they believe their work is fulfilling and valuable. This is according to a study entitled “What Do Older Workers Value About Work and Why” published by Rosa Marvell and Annette Cox in 2017 for the Institute for Employment Studies and the Center for Ageing Better. The research also found that mature talent is more likely to stick around if they get support from their employer and the needs and views are heard.
According to Marvell and Cox, it’s not only money that drives people to work longer. Rather, many individuals continue to work because of the interaction it allows. Also, if the work is meaningful, it builds the workers’ self-esteem and gives them a sense of purpose. Work provides opportunities for mental, physical, and social activity, which people often value in later life.
Still, many people stop working before they’re ready. Sometimes it’s because their workplace can’t accommodate their health challenges. Other times, it’s because of outright hostility or discrimination. Mature people who stop working before they’re ready are likely to suffer negative financial, social, and health consequences.
How Mature People See Themselves as Employees
We noted that older workers are often seen as disengaged. But how do they see themselves, and what support do they want late in their careers? A study of older workers in the United Kingdom and Bulgaria sought to assess just that. In their quantitative analysis, Stanimira K. Taneva, John Arnold, and Rod Nicolson found that older workers are actually more likely to see the later stages of their careers as a period of development rather than decline.
They see themselves positively and believe that their age is an advantage, not a hindrance. Furthermore, mature workers generally feel they are thriving rather than just getting by. The researchers said the knowledge and experiences that mature employees had gained over the years allowed them to see the big picture and speak openly.
Research participants said their knowledge and experience led to increased cognitive functioning. One worker said their age allowed them to maneuver around obstacles, while another said they knew how to cope better in complex situations. These abilities were seen as contributing to the superior work performance of mature talent. Workers participating in the study felt that their accumulated knowledge made them more stable and influential, and it meant they had strong people skills. This contrasts with the popular belief that older workers aren’t as productive as their younger counterparts.
What Mature Talent Wants from Employers
In order to keep older people in the workforce and giving of their best, employers need to ensure they offer fulfilling work. According to Marvell and Cox, mature workers value many of the same things as workers of other ages. Like any other employee, they want jobs that are intellectually stimulating with a good work-life balance and opportunities to build connections.
That being said, there are some things that become more important as people age. For example, mature employees highly value health. Therefore, they want shorter hours or flexible hours that accommodate their health needs or their care responsibilities. They also want to work for organizations that have the same values as they do. Moreover, older workers want responsibility, autonomy, and opportunities to mentor younger workers.
With the necessary adjustments to work and the workday, older workers can continue to work. If companies don’t work to accommodate them, they will leave the workforce prematurely, depriving the organization of their vast knowledge. Highly-skilled and well-paid employees who are dissatisfied will either retire, move on to more age-inclusive companies, or start their own businesses. Those who are less skilled or less entrepreneurially inclined may try to stick around, but they will be disengaged and less productive. It is clear that organizations benefit significantly when they cater to the needs of mature talent.
Need Help with Supporting Mature Employees? Reach Out to WiseForce Advisors!
If you want more information about what older workers want and how you can offer them the support they want, we can help. We’re experts in attracting and retaining mature talent, and we have a range of interventions that would benefit your organization.