Changing workforce dynamics among the aging population

Aging workforce

Jun. 20, 2011

Jun. 20, 2011

Employees who are in their 40s, 50s, 60s, or beyond can be a great asset to your company. They offer a wealth of experience and skills. At this point in their lives, however, their needs from an employer may be changing. And as an employer, it’s important to consider their point of view. The following insights can help you understand your midlife employees better. It’s information that can help you communicate, create a meaningful work environment, and provide support for these valued team members.

How their attitudes toward their careers are changing.

Midlife employees may have worked for 25 years or more. They probably feel confident about many parts of their jobs. They may have reached many of their career goals. Some may be asking themselves if their job is satisfying enough. Others may have concerns about changes in the field or the economy. Here are reasons midlife employees may question the role of work in their lives.

  • Dreams, goals, and priorities change as we age. Your midlife employees may have experienced life-changing events. The death or illness of a close friend may cause them to see their lives differently. As employees grow older, they may want work that brings more meaning to their lives. Work may need to be more personally and morally fulfilling. You may find these employees want to pursue new assignments. Or, they may want to go back to school, or even start a second career.
  • They realize time is finite. Many of us struggle to balance work and life. Employees in midlife, however, are seeing their children grow up and their parent’s age. It becomes clear that time is limited. If they’re going to right the balance, the time is now.
  • They begin to think about the years ahead and how they want to spend them. Midlife employees may be asking if their job is satisfying. If they need new work challenges. If this is the type of work they want to keep doing.

All these things can cause midlife employees to rethink the role of work in their lives.

How to create a meaningful work environment.

Midlife employees have a lot of experience and know how to get things done. While this is a plus in the workplace, it can make their jobs less challenging. Here are a few ideas that can offer these employees greater job satisfaction.

  • Be flexible about making reasonable adjustments to their work and work routine. Maybe the employee would like to leave early one day a week to watch his teenager play a sport. Maybe she would like to adjust her schedule so she can volunteer a couple of mornings. Simple things like these can be well worth it.
  • Make sure employees feel free to talk to you about ways to make their jobs more fulfilling. For example, someone might want to work more with people. If so, maybe there’s a lateral move that would allow it.
  • Encourage them to share their ideas on improving the work environment. Their knowledge and experience can make work a more positive place for everyone. One employee may have an idea for streamlining a process to save everyone time. Another might offer to plan a monthly luncheon to promote team spirit.
  • Bring some fun into the workplace. In Fish!: A Proven Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results, authors Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul, and John Christensen tell us that having a good time is healthy. Make your workplace more fun for all your employees by starting a softball team or a movie discussion club. Or just make the office look brighter with colors, plants or an aquarium.
  • Offer midlife employees new challenges and learning opportunities. If there’s a special project or assignment, consider giving it to a midlife employee. Offer training programs suited to their needs. New challenges help them stay committed, motivated and involved.M
  • Help them make a lateral move that would require less of a time commitment. That could allow the employee more time to pursue other interests.
  • Encourage a midlife employee to be a mentor. Being someone’s teacher or coach can be very satisfying. And it reminds the employee of how much knowledge and experience he or she has. They can become involved in a training program. Or, they can share an assignment with someone who needs their guidance.
  • Recommend groups where they can network with others in the field. It can provide a great opportunity to share their expertise and to learn new skills.

How to give support.

When an employee feels unhappy or under pressure, it can create stress. Try to watch for these signs of stress in midlife — and other — employees:

  • weight loss or gain, or changes in appetite
  • headaches or stomach problems
  • sleep disturbances
  • feelings of sadness or depression
  • alcohol or substance abuse
  • difficulty relaxing
  • exhaustion or loss of energy
  • problems concentrating
  • a reduced sense of accomplishment or pleasure
  • increased irritability
  • lack of motivation or enthusiasm

Encourage your employees to talk with a healthcare provider if you notice any of these signs. Your EAP also offers resources that can help. Resources available to Humana members.