The best employees for your business probably don’t fit into any single age demographic. So it only makes good business sense to take advantage of older workers’ experience, varied skill sets and seasoned attitudes. Being able to motivate Baby Boomer employees can boost productivity and make a significant difference in your recruitment and retention strategies.
Chances are you’ve already hired people older that you. Sometimes a young entrepreneur/business owner can feel a little defensive about managing someone with greater workplace experience. At the same time, you can learn a lot by working close with these individuals – gaining a perspective on business practices you would never acquire by hiring only younger, inexperienced workers.
So how can you make the most of older employees?
Be open about not knowing everything. Yes, you own and run the business, but where’s it written that you’re an expert on everything? By establishing a comfortable relationship with an older employee, you can feel more comfortable asking questions and benefiting from a Baby Boomer’s accumulated wisdom. This approach serves as an example for others on your team, who – by following your lead – can ask for guidance from the same individual. You never know where a great idea or unexpected insight can come from!
Earn their respect. Your older employees, just like everyone else in the business, expect you to demonstrate leadership abilities – both in good times and during periods of adversity. They’re watching for situations where you demonstrate the ability to make rational decisions about the business. The best of these employees are eager to respect you, not look down on your efforts to succeed.
Maintain open lines of communications. Some older workers will resist different ways of doing things and balk at working with new technology. Most of the time, this is based on a fear of failure or disappointing the boss. It’s important to clearly communicate why adopting new technology is critical for the success of the business. With a grounded explanation, many older employees are much more willing to get on board and make changes in the way they work, once they understand how this behavior leads to growth.
It’s helpful as well if you can be flexible in the means of communications. Broadly speaking, most Baby Boomer workers have spent their careers interacting with others on a face-to-face basis. Some may still prefer this form of interaction, while others may surprise you by preferring texting or social media tools. Your willingness to communicate in a variety of platforms can increase the likelihood that an employee will “get” what you’re looking for the first time around.
Make training available for everyone. Whatever their age, your employees will benefit from job training or programs that introduce them to new skills. In many cases, Baby Boomers have a long career history of responding to change and learning new skills. They may even be able to incorporate new ways of doing things quicker than some of their younger counterparts. In any case, training in new technology and upgraded business processes makes sense for your entire workforce.
Best of all, most older employees have a great deal of knowledge and experience they’re eager to share with co-workers. As long as you foster a workplace environment where these qualities are valued – and younger employees feel encouraged to seek out advice and guidance – your business will have a greater foundation of talent and experience, a valuable competitive edge in today’s marketplace.
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