Compelling reasons to engage and retain older workers

 Oct 10, 2017 3:00 PM

As much as we should treat all our employees equally, there are some pretty compelling reasons why we might want to place some extra effort into engaging and retaining an ‘older’ workforce. It’s not only about providing a workplace that is supportive and inclusive, it’s also about valuing older workers and recognizing what they bring to organizations – including the long-term payoff of transferring their experience, skills, knowledge, organizational history, and values to a younger workforce.

If you’re not already doing so, you may want to shift your perspective a bit and start viewing your older workers as contributors beyond their job description – to see them as Collaborators, Mentors/Coaches, Trainers, Networkers, Project Workers, Role Models, and Difference Makers!

  • Collaborators: Include your older workers on collaboration teams, think tanks, strategic planning sessions, etc., recognizing that collaboration is about seeking diverse perspectives.
  • Mentors/Coaches: Set up mentoring programs so that your older workers can share (formally or informally) their wisdom, experience, skills, knowledge, and external networks. Ensure that the difference between mentoring (helping the individual navigate the organization) and coaching (tapping the brilliance of the individual) is understood and practiced.
  • Trainers: Progressive organizations are developing their learning content internally – utilize the skills and experience of your older workers to help with the design of training programs or as trainers in your ‘corporate university’.
  • Networkers: Older workers typically have extensive networks that they have built over their careers. There may be opportunities to tap into their networks for recruiting, outreach, or special projects.
  • Project Workers: Consider making easy entry/exit for project work. Not all older workers want full-time employment, but can be an asset on specific projects, as well as in part-time and seasonal roles.
  • Role Models: Older workers can help to shape your culture by demonstrating what it means to be productive, loyal, and hard-working — and to go above-and-beyond the job description.
  • Difference Makers: As workers get closer to the end of their career, they are motivated to leave a mark – to know that they have made a difference. And they want to be challenged. Find ways, perhaps through new initiatives/programs, to harness their passion.

Many people choose to stay in the workforce past the typical retirement age because they want to work – for personal fulfillment, dignity, social inclusion and well-being. Others may need to work to help secure retirement and financial stability if they are without pension plans or adequate personal savings. Here are some of the facts and research on this topic:

  • Statistics Canada conducted a survey of older workers between 50 and 75 years of age. Among respondents who were currently working, and had never retired (approximately 78% of the sample), over half indicated they plan to continue to work on a part-time basis when they retire. The Government of Canada has some tips for Promoting Older Worker Participation.
  • Governments and businesses have a vested interest in engaging older workers and encouraging their continued contribution. According to CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons), “older workers ‘are ready to stay engaged and demonstrate their value to the economy and society, and they will ‘not sit back and accept the status quo”.
  • Half of Canadian couples between 55 and 64 have no employer pension between them, and of those, less than 20 per cent of middle-income families have saved enough to adequately supplement government benefits and the Canada/Quebec Pension Plan. [Broadbent Institute]
  • Companies are exploring how to design the organization of the future – one that is more flexible and agile – and accommodates a workforce that is becoming both older and younger. [Deloitte report on Human Capital Trends]

At the Centre for Character Leadership, we’re passionate about character cultures – ones that value and include older workers. Do you have ways that older workers have brought outstanding contributions to your workplace? Please contact me and tell me about your success stories – I would love to hear them!


Kathleen Redmond, MCC

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Kathleen Redmond

Kathleen Redmond is the Founder of the Centre for Character Leadership. She is certified Master Certified Coach (International Coach Federation), an author and Adjunct Professor of the University of Guelph’s MA Leadership Program.


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