Seniors: Why More Are Returning to Work & Tips for Successful Management

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Successful Management

Introduction

After decades in the workforce, retirement can seem like a wonderful change. Yet, as people start enjoying longer lifespans and good health in their retirement years, the urge to retire can diminish. In some populations, seniors are expected to live well into their 90s by midcentury. This is good news for countries concerned about an ageing workforce. Retirees may be returning to work in greater numbers due to choice or preference, or both. We explore reasons why more older workers are getting back into the workforce and provide some useful strategies for those managing seniors in their workplace.

Why are more seniors returning to work?

Research suggests almost one in five adults over 65 are still at work. This is up from around 12% in 1995. By 2026, around 22% of those aged 65 and older will be working, and those aged 75 and older will demonstrate the fastest growth rate in terms of the percentage of people working. As much as 69% of baby boomers plan to keep working past 65.

So why are more seniors choosing to come back to the workforce? These are some of the most common motivations:

  • Extra income – More seniors might be returning to the workforce or continuing to work due to economic necessity. They might really need the money to maintain their standard of living. Alternatively, they might not be completely reliant on the income and it might be a way to supplement their retirement savings and/or pension, for extra financial security.
  • Healthcare costs – Some seniors are working longer or returning to work due to concerns about meeting healthcare costs. In some countries, the cost of healthcare has been growing, and this can include the costs of prescription medication and treatments not covered by the public system.
  • Purpose and fulfilment – For some older workers, getting back to work is about fulfilment, staying engaged and active, and a sense of purpose. The self-isolation imposed by the pandemic might have driven more seniors to think hard about their post-lockdown plans. Around two-thirds said it has made them consider what they want out of life a bit more, while over half said they were pondering their purpose in life. Work can be a part of one’s identity and a job gives one responsibilities, goals to work towards, and a feeling of contribution and meaning. It offers a reason to wake up each day, a stable routine to follow, and a sense of accomplishment.
  • Try new jobs – Sometimes returning to work is about trying a new industry or job they’ve wanted to try but hadn’t had the opportunity to. It might give seniors a way to explore their hobbies and interests. Others might be pursuing entrepreneurial dreams of owning their own business.
  • Business demand – Some industries or businesses might have strong demand for older workers. Lots of organisations might value the reliability, flexibility, and experience of their mature workers. They can act as mentors for younger employees and bring more diversity to the business as a whole.
  • Social connections – Employment is a great way to build and maintain your social network. It helps you meet and interact with new people and sees you going on a shared journey with your colleagues.
  • Support grandchildren – Some older workers are returning to work because they’re helping raise their grandchildren and need to meet the extra expenses by working.
  • Government policy – In some countries with ageing populations, government policy has tended towards encouraging people to stay in the workforce for longer, such as by raising the eligibility age for receiving pensions.

Strategies for managing older employees

If you’re a younger manager who manages older employees, these strategies could help you be more effective and successful with your senior workforce.

  • Avoid being dismissive – It almost goes without saying that managers should never be dismissive towards any employee. With older staff members, support them in learning new skills, and their decades of experience will likely be enhanced by their upskilling, which will enable you to make the most of your senior team members
  • Understand their motivations – Try to get to know the seniors under your management and find out what motivates them, especially when it comes to remuneration. Do they prefer flexible hours, working from home, or end-of-year bonuses? Where possible, motivate and reward them as they’d like to be.
  • Accommodate different approaches – Whether it’s in scheduling shifts, work-life balance, or approaches to work social events, try to accommodate all your employees. If they’d prefer not to join happy hour drinks, create more inclusive work gatherings everyone can enjoy.
  • Treat and value them like other staff – Ask for your older workers’ perspectives as you would any other team members. Demonstrate that you value their input and opinions. Identify their talents and strengths, and put these to work where possible.
  • Don’t be intimidated – Your older workers will respect you if you’re not intimidated by them and if you stay firm, transparent, and decisive.
  • Introduce a mentorship programme – Encourage older employees to become mentors to younger ones so they can pass on their experience and knowledge. They will feel valued and motivated to contribute more.
  • Communicate effectively – Don’t assume your older employees already know everything. Update them on changing expectations and be as specific as possible.
  • Focus on results – Give your older employees a chance to get used to your managerial style and always keep the focus on the task and the results and outcomes.
  • Remember you’re the leader – Give constructive feedback and instructive commentary where necessary with your older workers. Lead by example by staying calm and focused. As a leader, seek respect rather than approval.
  • Safety – Make your workplace as safe and as comfortable as possible for your older workers. Watch out for hurdles like slip hazards and poor accessibility for those with vision and mobility conditions. 

Conclusion

It’s clear older workers are already redefining what retirement looks like. The increasing numbers returning to the workforce or staying in work well past their retirement age might be motivated by a range of reasons. Driving factors can include making more money, staying fulfilled and engaged, and even government policy. Younger managers who manage these older workers should leverage different strategies as is appropriate, including being more accommodating to different approaches and understanding what motivates their older workers. These can help generate mutual respect and create a more cohesive and effective workforce.

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