Responsible working lives for all ages – who is the aging employee?
We are getting older and healthier, but are the structures that support employment keeping up with that development? There is a mega-trend of an increasing aging population that will also significantly impact our working communities. Never have so many different generations worked side by side as today. Although we are living longer and healthier, the structures that support employment have not changed to the same extent. There is an untapped potential among people in upper middle age who could be active in a labor market with flexible employment structures. My research shows that organizations could support aging employees by embracing age diversity in organizational attitudes, practices, and policies, thus encouraging prolonged employment. Additionally, individual attitudes toward learning, activity, and health play a significant role in the labor market. Multiple factors encourage long employment lives at the organizational and individual levels.
In my research, I have noticed that age-related topics have been a long-standing part of human resource management (HRM) discussions, yet leadership discussions seem to have been less active on the subject. In one study with a colleague, we suggest that the work environment, including managerial practices and attitudes, plays a vital role in fostering sustainable careers. As an employee, you establish a relationship of expectations with your employer that relies on trust and respect. To maintain a thriving employee-employer relationship, both parties must uphold this trust.
Therefore, no silver bullet will solve the challenge of keeping silver workers active in the labor market. What are your experiences of the evolution of working life and attitudes towards aging employees in your work community? Are you applying age diverse HRM or leadership principles? Is age an active part of your organization's diversity, equity, and inclusion program? I would like to continue the conversation about age diversity in the work community and the role of HRM and leadership.