Engaging the Aging and Multigenerational Workforce

May is Older Americans Month, an opportunity to engage and value all employees

By Rena Gorlin May 10, 2018
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"Engage at Every Age" is this year's theme for Older Americans Month, established in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy to recognize the contributions and continuing vitality of senior citizens. The Administration on Aging, an agency of the federal government, coordinates the nationwide observance every May.

In the context of employment, engagement and aging are issues that HR professionals know well.

With HR's assistance, workers young and old can engage with one another through programs that benefit the respective parties, the organization and the community. For example, mature employees can offer advice to those starting their first full-time jobs, or new employees can seek mentoring from those with greater life experience and institutional knowledge.

During Older Americans Month and all year long, HR professionals are encouraged to consult the following resources:

  • Aging Workforce Initiative (SHRM Foundation). Original research highlights the value of older workers and identifies best practices for employing an aging workforce.

  • Employing Older Workers (SHRM Express Requests). This curated list of resources gives information on the value of older workers, how to support older workers, stereotypes and misconceptions, and training and mentoring.

  • Employing an Aging Workforce (SHRM Online). Selections in this compilation of resources include news articles on retaining and engaging older workers, hiring older workers, and navigating the multigenerational workforce as well as links to research and a recap of SHRM's Twitter chat, #Nextchat, on the "The Aging Workforce."

  • Managing the Older Worker: How to Prepare for the New Organizational Order, by Peter Cappelli and Bill Novelli (Harvard Business Review Press, 2010). This book is approved for recertification credit; to obtain your professional development credits after reading, complete a quiz on SHRM's eLearning platform.

  • Center for Workforce Solutions (LeadingAge). The organization offers workforce resources for organizations that serve aging people, as well as ideas for partnerships with employers, tools for companies to calculate turnover, presentation materials, fact sheets, testimonials, podcasts, policy news and more. LeadingAge is a charitable organization whose members and partners include not-for-profit organizations representing the entire field of aging services, 38 state partners, businesses, consumer groups, foundations and research partners. It is part of the Global Ageing Network that spans 30 countries.

  • Pension Rights Center. This nonprofit consumer organization is committed to protecting and promoting the retirement security of American workers, retirees and their families.

  • Senior Community Service Employment Program (U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration). This community service and work-based job training program was created for older Americans, specifically low-income, unemployed seniors. Participants gain work experience at nonprofit and public facilities, including schools, hospitals, day care centers and senior centers.

  • SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge (SHRM Certification). Several components of this foundational document for HR professionals are particularly relevant to the interests of older workers:

    • Glossary: Diversity is defined as "differences in people's characteristics," which include age, disability, education, personality, socioeconomic status, thought processes, work style, etc.

    • Key concepts of HR Expertise functional areas:
      --Diversity & Inclusion: approaches to managing a multigenerational/aging workforce; handling workplace accommodations.
      --Total Rewards: retirement planning and benefits.
      --Risk Management: workplace/occupational injury and illness prevention and accommodations.
      --Learning & Development: educational theories (e.g., adult learning theory).
      --U.S. Employment Law & Regulations: equal employment opportunity (e.g., Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, etc.)

    • Behavioral competencies:
      --Global & Cultural Effectiveness: valuing and considering the perspectives and backgrounds of all parties; promoting a diverse and inclusive workplace.
      --Ethical Practice: encompasses everything from recruiting a diverse workforce to ensuring the confidentiality of sensitive employee data.

Rena Gorlin, J.D., is an independent writer and editor in Washington, D.C.

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