Professor of HR management Dirk van Dierendonck surveyed thousands of HR managers and employees across Europe.
He found that while most employers seem to understand the strengths of older workers, retention strategies are not a priority.
Van Dierendonck discovered that while many organisations use older workers as mentors or trainers for younger staff, this is often done in an informal way, with none of the companies surveyed having a formal mentoring policy in place.
But according to van Dierendonck, this is not enough. He told HR magazine: “Companies need to have a more integrated programme. We found that if [companies] don’t have a policy to ensure older workers are given a mentor responsibility then they feel there is not enough explicit attention given to them.”
He also said employers should address the “professional identity” of older workers and enhance their pride in their jobs. He said this should “boost their intrinsic motivation and give them a sense of meaning”.
Van Dierendonck added that any knowledge-sharing programme must be managed carefully to ensure people don’t feel threatened. “If you have a programme where older workers are sharing all their knowledge with young people, they may feel like the young people will take over their jobs. So why would they want to help?” he pointed out.
To get around this delicate issue, he advised employers make older workers feel valued for their skills and knowledge. He cited one company that gave bonuses to older workers who got involved with the mentoring scheme.
“The older workers then saw the company and other employees were doing well because of the shared knowledge, and felt they were being explicitly recognised for that,” he added. “[Recognition makes] them feel like they are making a valued contribution to the organisation.”