At present, more than one third of all employees in Germany belong to the 50 Plus generation. In the face of demographic change, employers should recognize the value of their experienced "older" employees and derive appropriate measures to remain attractive to their silver workers.
Most companies are aware of the challenges associated with an ageing workforce. But in many cases this knowledge does not lead to actual action. And even if perception changes and the relevance of the issue is high, many employers lack concrete approaches to dealing with this development.
What can you do to improve the performance, work ability and health of your employees, especially older ones? How can you meet the needs of both younger and older employees in a company?
The 50-plus generation combines numerous positive attributes companies are able to benefit from. They not only have many years of professional experience and a high level of technical and industry knowledge, but often also a large professional network with personal relationships, developed over the years. In general, Silver Workers are expected to have a high level of responsibility and social competence. Another decisive advantage of the 50-plus generation is the probably completed family planning.
In addition, it should not be forgotten that most people born after 1964 work until their 67th birthday and can therefore still be available to companies for up to 17 years after their 50th birthday. Naturally, with appropriate integration, support and occupational health care.
Digitalisation and demography are changing the world of work immensely. Especially for the elderly - with little technical understanding - the increasing Smart World represents a great challenge. After almost 30 years or more, some silver workers find it difficult to change their working life and learn new technical aspects. At this point it is important to take the colleagues along and prepare them for digitisation with workshops and further training. The intergenerational exchange between the young and the old is also helpful. The naturalness with which Generation Y operates in the Smart World will also affect the Silver Workers. Mutual understanding will also be fostered, as each age group can learn from the other and the team spirit will be encouraged.
While the young colleagues take the well-established ones with them on their journey into the world of digitisation, they can benefit from their experience. At the age of 55, there is so much know-how and professional experience that the younger generation can learn a lot of tricks and profit from them in the future - just like the company, which should be interested in not losing existing know-how.
For a successful integration it is important to know the exact needs of the target group 50-plus. This also requires a lot of creativity. First and foremost, it's about keeping employees fit - both professionally and physically. Depending on the respective employee, a lot of them want to continue to be promoted and build up their competences and not fall onto the sidetrack. Silver Workers provide a knowledge advantage especially when they are involved in decision-making processes right from the start. Low-impact 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. Professional recognition, which forms the basis for long-term relationships in every age group, and equal treatment within the framework of financial compensation should also not be underestimated. If young employees receive monetary benefits, such as reimbursement for childcare places, then it would also be appropriate to take older employees into account in other ways. For example, in form of voucher 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 employees for longer, natural age-related changes in perception and motor skills must be taken into account when designing work. Today, almost one in three employees leaves the workforce early. Adapting working conditions can counteract this in a positive way. Even if this requires investment at first, it will pay for itself in the long run if employees remain productive into old age. The offer of health supporting trainings or workshops in the office, the promotion of a membership in the sports club and regular workplace examinations are only some measures to motivate his employees.
Another possibility is the offer of job rotation. The type of work, the premises and working hours play an important role. In order to avoid a monotonous working day, which is also more stressful than relaxing for older generations, a regular change of work activity can be considered. This also promotes cognitive abilities.
The ageing of society makes preventive measures necessary. In general, older employees offer numerous advantages that offset feared disadvantages. For example, 40 years of professional experience may offset a slower pace in information processing. Ageing is not always the same if an age-appropriate, low-impact and individual work design is ensured. It is advantageous to start very early with ergonomic and adapted workplace design. 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 on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs shows. According to the study, two thirds of employees would like to remain in a company until retirement if at least one health-promoting measure were offered. Among those surveyed without such a measure, the figure is only a good half.
Those who recognize the challenges of the time and develop suitable measures for their company and their employees will be one step ahead in the future and have a clear competitive advantage. To achieve this, it can be helpful to call in external expertise in order to create the optimal working environment for all employees.