Pages:10 (3030 words)
Document Type:Research Paper
How Managers Can Address Risks of an Aging Workforce
This paper examines the effects of the aging workforce on companies and how managers should address the issue. It identifies the risks associated with an aging workforce, looks at the challenges that this issue brings for managers, offers solutions and recommendations for what managers can do to address these risks and challenges, discusses ergonomic issues and how to face resistance within the organization when changes are inevitably made to accommodate the aging workforce so as to enhance their performance and maximize their potential. It also looks at the positive side of having an aging workforce and why more people should work later in life and why managers should embrace this trend.
Keywords: aging workforce, managing aging workers, generational gap workplace
The workforce is aging in the 21st century (Heggeness, Carter-Johnson, Schaffer, & Rockey, 2016). An aging workforce presents certain challenges for management in today’s workplace. Not only does it mean that the workplace will consist of multiple generations of workers, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, but also it means that issues like ageism, appropriate motivational approaches, and physical limitations of older workers have to be addressed. With more than a third of today’s workers now expecting to work past the age of retirement, an aging workforce is fast becoming a reality (Lassila, 2019). As more and more people are delaying retirement, the workforce is becoming much more diverse and eclectic. Managers thus have a number of considerations to make. This paper will describe the challenges of managing an aging workforce and recommend solutions that managers can use to overcome those challenges and create a supportive workplace environment for all.
One of the main challenges of managing an aging workforce is managing risks. Risks can come in the form of safety, such as onsite accidents, or health (Lassila, 2019). Depending on the type of workplace environment, safety risks can be great or small. In a construction-type environment, safety risks for an aging workforce will be significant (Koh, Rowlinson & Pollock, 2019). Providing video instruction or relying on educational lectures to train an aging workforce about workplace safety will not be sufficient: managers will need to provide hands-on training, walking older workers through safety protocols so that they understand it and gain first-hand knowledge directly (Lassila, 2019).
Managing the rest cycles of older workers will be necessary as well, particularly in fast-paced workplaces, such as in a restaurant or in a health facility, where workers are expected to be on their feet and on the go during the entirety of their work shift. To prevent burnout or a high rate of turnover from setting in, older workers will need to be given more rest opportunities, which will help to shore up morale and keep the workplace culture from eroding into negativity (Lassila, 2019). Older workers are not going to have the same stamina they had when they were in their 20s or 30s. Making sure the older workers are not becoming exhausted on the job is important and managers should take care that older employees are getting enough rest.
Providing benefits and wellness programs are other ways to manage risk with respect to an aging workforce (Ciutiene & Railaite, 2015). Changing work schedules or using health coaches can be ways of keeping an aging workforce healthy and engaged in their work. Paying attention to the ergonomics of the workplace and eliminating factors that could lead to fatigue or stress are other possible ways of managing these risks and preventing older workers from becoming sick, worn out or injured (Lassila, 2019). Managers can do a lot to manage and minimize the risks associated with having an aging workforce. Most of these risks can easily be addressed and require simply a little accommodation on the part of management.
To prevent issues like ageism from rearing up, however, managers should discuss the importance of diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. Just because the majority of employees are likely to be younger and not of retiring age, it does not mean that they can express ageist beliefs or attitudes. Diversity and inclusivity are important in a 21st century workplace culture and managers must make sure that older workers do not feel like they are being treated unfairly by other workers. All employees should be made to know that prejudice towards others because of their age will not be tolerated.
The fact is that aging is associated with a decline of function, as Truxillo, Cadiz and Hammer (2015) indicate. Sensory, muscle and aerobic capacity are all ways an aging workforce can face obstacles. Older workers may also lack stamina and have reduced homeostasis, which is the ability to operate normally even after a change of environment. In short, older workers face challenges in each of the following categories:
· Physical changes
· Cognitive changes
· Affective changes
In the physical changes category, workers are likely to experience sensory, muscular and aerobic obstacles. Their immune system is not going to be as strong as a younger person, and they are less likely to be resilient to changes in the environment—i.e., fluctuations in temperature, loss of sleep, etc. (Truxillo et al., 2015). Cognitive changes can be result in challenges related to fluid intelligence—i.e., age-related alterations in the person’s ability to process information, rely upon memory or focus and pay attention during a task. Crystallized intelligence presents another cognitive change and refers to the person’s ability to gain new knowledge, skills or wisdom. The older people get the harder it usually is for them to learn new skills (Truxillo et al., 2015). Thus, another challenge for managing an aging workforce is learning how to deal with their limited capacity to grow in learning.
Affective changes include emotional regulation and emotion generation. As Truxillo et al. (2015) point out, there…
…be challenges and issues to face, but these challenges and issues can be overcome with a little grace and confidence. Managers should realize the tremendous positives that an aging workforce brings to an organization and they should devote their energy to harnessing that population and using its strengths for good.
These positives include having a reliable set of veterans who can assist them and support them in the decision-making process. Managers always need a core group of supporters who can help them rally the troops and embrace whatever directives the managers put forward. The aging workers can act like the veterans of a ballclub or basketball team. They never put up resistance to the coach and are always working on the game, showing the younger players the meaning of staying fit and persevering. The younger players look up to the older ones and learn from the veterans about work ethic, motivation (intrinsic), how to stay fit and conditioned, and what it means to keep a positive attitude.
This is something no manager really should want to do without. An aging workforce presents its challenges, but it also presents numerous positives that managers should be happy to embrace. The trade-off between positives and negatives is one worth making as the challenges are really minor inconveniences in comparison to the positive effect on workplace morale that older workers can bring. They can bring a certain amount of gravitas to the workplace that younger workers can benefit from. They can help younger workers to see the value in staying with one company over time. They can nurture new workers, mentor them, provide guidance and support, and facilitate management’s objectives when it comes to building a positive workplace culture of respect and hard work.
The aging workforce is a fact of life in today’s day and age. Workers are now working past the age of retirement, and this brings certain challenges, risks and benefits for managers and the organization they serve. The risks include health and safety risks. Older workers are likely to need more hands-on training. They are more likely to require ergonomic accommodations. They do not adjust well to environmental changes and their stamina is unlikely to be as high as younger workers. They may need more rest more frequently to prevent them from becoming burned out and they may cause younger workers to lapse into an ageist mentality. All of these issues can be addressed by managers. Risks can be mitigated by adjusting the workplace environment to meet the needs of the aging workforce, whether it is installing more lighting or adjusting the height of work desks. Health coaches can be brought in, schedules can be changed, and rest cycles can be improved. Additionally, managers can promote diversity and inclusivity in the culture to reduce the risk of ageism. These challenges and risks are thus not difficult to overcome. Plus, there are numerous benefits to having older workers in the workplace. They can mentor younger workers, and…
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