Although much has been written about managing millennials, the nation’s demographics indicate that the labor force participation of older Americans is growing rapidly. That means it’s becoming much more common to see younger people managing older employees – a situation that is not without its challenges.
First, let’s take a quick look at the numbers. As of 2012, 66.6 percent of Americans 55 and older were still actively in the workforce, and that number is expected to increase to 74 percent by 2022. It’s clear that people are living longer, more productive lives and that they are either choosing to remain in the workforce longer or return to work in some capacity after retirement.
Conventional wisdom has told us that managers hire in their own image. However, the reality is that if you want to run a successful operation, you can’t hire (or retain) only those people who are just like you. Getting comfortable with managing people of all ages is imperative if you want to move up the corporate ladder.
How Managing Older Employees Can be Done
As a young manager myself, I realize that we need older workers and must be comfortable managing them. Here are some tips to bear in mind when managing older employees:
- Shape the relationship: Gear your management style toward creating a successful relationship with employees of all ages.
- Take a collaborative approach: Resist the temptation to be authoritative to establish your position. This will help you get the most out of your employees.
- Put people in a position to succeed: Identify employees’ strengths and weaknesses. Build on their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.
- Create a culture that encourages mutual respect: Older employees have often experienced many of the issues you face now, and can suggest ways to resolve them.
- Know your audience and communicate appropriately: Identify how people prefer to be communicated with and adapt your communication style as much as possible to reach all your audience more effectively.
- Hire a diverse workforce: Groupthink is never the most successful approach. Hire and retain people of all ages and encourage differing opinions that reflect their different experiences. You’ll receive better advice and employees will learn from each other.
- Ask their opinions: Older employees, particularly those who are accomplished and experienced, want to feel that their opinions are heard and have value.
The bottom line is that it’s your job to maximize your resources so you can achieve corporate goals and create a climate for individual growth. Forming a strong team with multiple levels of experience and perspectives will go a long way toward getting you there.