Our society is getting older and older, and so the proportion of silver workers is also rising. Currently, around 30% of employees in Germany belong to the 50-plus generation. In view of this, employers should recognize the value of their experienced "older" employees and derive appropriate measures to remain attractive for their silver workers or even attract new ones.
Most companies are aware of the challenges associated with an aging workforce. But in most cases, this knowledge does not translate into actual action. And even though perceptions are changing and the relevance of the issue is high, many employers lack concrete action plans on how to deal with this development.
What can you do to promote the performance, work ability and health of your - especially older - employees? How can you meet the needs of younger and older employees in a company equally?
The 50-plus generation combines numerous positive characteristics from which companies can benefit. In addition to many years of professional experience and a high level of specialist and industry knowledge, they often also have a large professional network with personal relationships that they have built up over the years. In general, silver workers are assumed to have a high level of responsibility and social competence. Another decisive advantage of the 50 plus generation is that they know their own strengths and can assess their performance well.
In addition, it should not be forgotten that most people born in 1964 or later will continue to work until their 67th birthday and can therefore remain available to companies for up to 17 years after their 50th birthday. Of course, with appropriate integration, promotion and company health care.
Digitalisation and demography are changing the world of work immensely. For older people in particular - with little technical understanding - the increasing smart world represents a major challenge. After almost 30 years or more in their professional lives, it is a problem for some silver workers to adapt and learn new technical aspects. At this point, it is important to bring colleagues along and make them fit for digitization with workshops and further training. From seminars to workshops, there are a number of measures you can take for your silver workers. Intergenerational exchange between young and old is also helpful. For example, the younger colleagues can help the older ones with any questions they may have about technology. The naturalness with which Generation Y operates in the Smart World will also have an impact on the Silver Workers. In addition, mutual understanding is promoted, because each age group can learn from the other and the team spirit is fostered.
So while the young colleagues take the old hands on a journey into the world of digitization, they can benefit from their experience. At 55 years of age, so much know-how and professional experience is available that the younger generation can pick up numerous tricks of the trade and benefit from them in the future - as can the company, in whose interest it should be not to lose existing know-how.
For successful integration, it is important to know the exact needs of the 50 plus target group. This also requires a certain amount of creativity. First and foremost, it is important that the employees remain fit - both professionally and physically. Depending on the individual employee, many want to continue to be supported and build up their skills and not be sidelined. After all, silver workers deliver a knowledge advantage especially when they are involved in decision-making processes from the very beginning.
Low-strain and ergonomic workplaces also promote productivity and reduce health risks. Other ways of keeping employees in the company in the long term are to ensure an optimum work-life balance and flexible working time models. After all, your 50Plus employees may later have become parents, already have the title of grandparents, or simply have to attend more medical appointments. Professional recognition, which forms a basis for long-term relationships in every age group, should not be underestimated, nor should equal treatment in the context of financial compensation. If young employees receive monetary benefits, such as reimbursement for childcare places, then it would be equally appropriate to consider silver workers in other ways as well. For example, in the form of vouchers or fuel cards.
Silver Workers also include employees who are entitled to a pension and who appreciate the fun and intellectual challenge at work. A study by the Institut for labour market and occupational research (IAB) shows that as early as 2015 every third company tried to keep employees entitled to a pension. This is particularly successful with shorter and more flexible working hours. Because the demands placed on older employees are high. A further study "Trend Report - Digitization and the Labor Market 2018" makes it clear: the companies surveyed fear above all the lack of flexibility and the higher health risk.
However, the creativity and willingness of the decision-makers to implement the measures to reduce health risks or sickness-related absences is also responsible for this.
In order to maintain the health and working ability of silver workers for longer, natural age-related changes in perception and motor skills must be taken into account in work design. Today, almost one in three employees retires early from working life. Adapting working conditions can help to counteract this. Even if this requires investments at first, these will pay off in the long run if employees remain productive into old age. Offering health-supporting training or workshops in the office, encouraging membership in sports clubs and regular workplace examinations are just some of the measures that can be taken to motivate employees.
In the manufacturing sector, for example, supportive and interacting machines can be used to relieve employees of the burden of lifting heavy loads. This avoids incorrect and unhealthy movements and may even increase efficiency.
Likewise, for employees who spend long periods of time sitting in front of a PC, consideration should be given to appropriate equipment such as lumbar-supporting chairs or height-adjustable desks. This promotes the health of both older employees and younger ones. Another option is to offer job rotation. The type of work, the premises and working hours play an important role here. To avoid a monotonous workday, which is also stressful rather than relaxing for silver workers, regular changes in work activities can be considered. This also promotes cognitive skills.
In addition to your existing older employees, it may also be worthwhile to hire new 50+ year olds. As mentioned above, they bring both experience and a strong network of relationships. Especially for younger companies, this additional expertise and experience can be worthwhile. In order to attract silver workers, you should advertise the corresponding job positions as such. The benefits that are decisive for the older generation, such as health care or flexible working hours, should also be listed. During job interviews, try to avoid possible inappropriate questions, such as "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?" for a 65-year-old. Keep the conversation as open as possible so that both sides can clarify what they expect from each other.
The aging of society makes preventive measures necessary. In general, older employees offer numerous advantages that compensate for feared disadvantages. For example, 40 years of professional experience compensate for a possibly slower speed of information processing. Aging is not the same as aging, if an age-appropriate, low-stress and individual work design is ensured. It is advantageous to start with ergonomic and adapted workplace design at a very early stage. This also reduces health risks for young employees, keeps them fit and, above all, makes them more satisfied, as a study by the Institute for Employment Research commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs shows. According to the study, two-thirds of employees would be happy to stay in a company until retirement if at least one health-promoting measure was offered. Among those surveyed without such a measure, the figure is only a good half.
Those who recognize the challenges of the time and derive suitable measures for their company and workforce from this will be one step ahead in the future and have a clear competitive advantage. To this end, it can be helpful to call in external expertise in order to create the optimal working environment for all employees. If you yourself belong to the group of Silver Workers, you can find our senior positions here.