Managing older workers

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Between the aging population and the skills shortage, the role of workers over 55 has become more and more important. Recent numbers from Statistics Canada shows the percentage of workers over 55 had almost doubled in the past 10 years – from 11.7% in 2001 to 18.7% in 2011. As many employees return to work or plan to continue working past 65, it’s an untapped talent pool for some employers.

“Any employer that doesn’t tap into that resource is missing a huge opportunity,” Timothy Holden, from Toronto Training and HR, said. Holden said some employers once favoured  younger workers in the theory they would be more engaged and enthusiastic, which was not always true.

There were also disadvantages, such as a less experienced workforce, as well as a higher turnover rate.

“The make-up of our workforce is very different than it was in the past, and that mirrors our customer base. We have a multi-generational and diverse workforce, and we have an equally diverse customer base,” BMO chief talent officer Lynn Roger said. “I think it’s finding the right balance between the generations and having managers trained in managing a diverse workforce.”

BMO Financial Group offers “people care” days, when staff can take time to care for relatives, and not only children, so Baby Boomers can care for elderly or ill parents.

In the past there have been distinct differences between younger workers, who were often focused on buying homes and caring for their children, while mature workers were preparing for retirement. That changed as people had children later in life, remarried and combined families or any number of other possibilities, Roger said.

Both experts stress that the needs of the mature worker aren’t that different to the needs of everyone else, and the steps that will support older workers will also help the rest of the workforce.

“It’s the variety of the assistance that we have and the focus on enabling the individual to give work their all because they have the supports allowing them to live their life and care for their families,” Roger said.

A key difference that mature workers may appreciate was the ability to transition smoothly and slowly into retirement by working part-time and taking on a mentoring role with upcoming employees.

“Individuals want to work longer and they’re fully engaged and committed. Why wouldn’t we want to benefit from that?” Roger added.

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