With Age Comes Expertise: How to Keep Older Employees on the Job

In the 2015 film, The Intern, Robert De Niro plays an 80-year-old widower who discovers that he’s bored with retirement and becomes a senior intern at an online fashion site. In true Hollywood fashion, he becomes the hero of the day and rescues the company’s thirtysomething founder, both in terms of her professional and personal life.

It’s not breaking news that real life isn’t as tidy as a feel-good film. However, the message that older workers are great for your business has merit. Yesterday, we looked at some of the benefits and potential challenges of managing a mature worker. Today, let’s explore more about retaining and engaging older employees.

  • Look for creative solutions to work, pay, and benefits. Flex time options are good for employees who don’t want to be full-time but still desire to work. Telecommuting is an option for older employees who have relocated after a spouse has retired. Also, look at alternatives to retirement spending and planning. For example, if you have a defined benefit plan for which retirement-aged employees have “maxed out” on payable benefits, the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) allows them to have money credited to a separate account. The account earns interest and is paid when the employee eventually retires, in addition to benefits acquired under the defined benefit plan.
  • Consider customer service roles. With their institutional knowledge, older workers are exceptional at working through problems. Work is also an important source for social interaction. Putting those two elements together, it makes sense for older workers to be terrific at jobs with more customer or frontline interaction or jobs that deal with internal customers.
  • Tap into wisdom. Pairing older employees with younger supervisors also makes good sense. As the manager, you’ll have to be clear on roles if you create such a team. And, once you shape the relationship, make sure everyone has set goals and accountabilities.

Finally, watch out for discriminatory practices. Ageism is a real concern in the workplace and has impact on all generations of workers.

In the end, you may not have Robert De Niro on your team, but an engaged older employee has all the potential for being a star nevertheless.