Another dimension: Age

So far, many posts in this blog were about women in leading positions, career obstacles and work-life balance. All of these topics belong to the gender aspect of diversity. Today I want to introduce another dimension: age. The demographic change and therefore aging society in Germany will be a strategic challenge for managers. They will have to integrate elder employees and simultaneously want to benefit from them rather than just dealing with them.

Today, according to a GfK survey cited in this article, employers are not prepared for elder employees.  Many retire early and do not work until the regular pension age, 65, which will even increase to 67 in the future. Health problems are the most common reason  to go into early retirement, especially psychological issues and back injuries. But what can be done in order to integrate elder employees better in the future so that they can work until the regular pension age? What factors need to be considered?elder employee

Well, first of all, I think the so called life-long-learning needs to be put into practice. Further education is crucial, even for employees close to pension. And education for senior employees needs to be designed differently because elder people learn in other ways than younger ones.
Secondly, in my opinion, another very important aspect is the manager’s behavior.  Appreciation, respect and authority need to be balanced and appropriate since many managers are younger than their employees.
Thirdly, the physical working conditions need to be improved or customized to elder employees, especially if they really work physically, e.g. production or construction workers.  Shoes and floors and chairs need to be adjusted and companies could work on and offer gymnastic exercises.

All in all, I think that companies have started to prepare for the future workforce, but there’s still a long way to  go. I’ve pointed out a few possible approaches…what other approaches come to your mind or which ones would you consider useful?

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Comments
10 Responses to “Another dimension: Age”
  1. thob84 says:

    Intersting article and very well structured.

    I agree, that this topic is of high importance for companies and the society as a whole. Therefore, it needs a sound strategic approach which includes the respective elements of suppport you named in your report.

    I am particularly wondering how the ambiguity between a obvious demographic change within a society on the one hand and common policies of companies to only hire ‘young professionals’ on the other will be solved.

  2. martinjaja says:

    Thanks for the article. I think you spotted a really urgent and state-of-the-art issue for our society – not just in Germany. It is also a major topic in other industrialized countries.

    For instance, France just recently had a huge retirement discussion. See the article from the Hamburger Abendblatt (http://tinyurl.com/France-retirement). I really don’t know what the companies should do about it. But Thomas is totally right to say, they should not only care about “young professionals”!

    Maybe, it would be a suitable issue for the EU parliament??

  3. Mary says:

    Thanks for that post, Katrin. As Thomas said, the ageing workforce is a topic of very high importance, particularly in terms of Strategig Management.

    Today, older people cannot live down the prejustice of being less innovative and creative, being sick more often and not able to work under pressure as younger workers. Here, companies have to adjust their working conditions to prove that these prejustices might just come from inadequate conditions. In-house medical service, healthy cantine food and sport activities might be one way. On the other hand, an ageing workforce might have many advantages managers (and whole departments) could benefit from. ‘Old Professionals’ will have far more experience than ‘Young Professionals’, which is why they might approach problems and tasks in a totally different (and maybe more mature) way. They might feel more responsible for their actions and their consequences and besides that, they might be more loyal to their company. Speaking of decision makers, mixed teams might generate more balanced outcomes.

    From my point of view a reorganisation of the working environment to integrate older workers is an absolutely important topic for older workers, but not to be forgotten for managers that want to get the best out of their (changing) workforce.

    For a deeper insight: a very nice study about this topic from the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung can be found here.

  4. Bruce Spear says:

    Great topic, good work!

    I’d like to see more on the good business advantages of having older people in a company. Does experience matter, and if so, how might it add value?

    Second, I’d love to see more links to other websites dealing with these issues, for example, http://www.canadabusiness.ca/eng/blog/entry/5277/, as well as evidence that you’ve learned from them something about the content presentation/discussion, including explicit references to how they present their arguments.

    Good luck!

  5. diiasg says:

    Very nice post. Im surprised it took us so long to cover this topic. It is in fact one of the key issues and questions that could help solve some of other issues facing the employment market today.

    Where is the “break even point ” so to speak. At what point does the experience no longer cover the efficiency.

    I hope that made sense..It did in my head.

    regarldess…great post.

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