Creating A Great Place to Work for Mature Workers

An older business woman leaning on her desk.
The benefits of implementing certain programs and policies are obvious for some employee populations'working parents with young children, for example, value flexible work schedules and child care programs as a means for balancing work with family life. Organizations that embrace these programs are rewarded with improved recruiting and retention results, as well as higher productivity. But research suggests that determining and meeting the needs of mature workers'those 50 years of age or older'can be of similar value for retaining another valuable component of the workforce.  

The Center on Aging & Work/Workplace Flexibility at Boston College recently analyzed data from the 2002 National Study of the Changing Workforce to compare the personal characteristics, employment experiences, and attitudes of workers age 50 and over in three categories of work: wage and salaried employees, independent self-employed workers who do not employ anyone else, and small-business owners who employ at least one other person.   Mature workers are significantly more likely than younger workers to be independent self-employed workers (17% versus 12%) or small business owners (9% versus 7%), and therefore less likely to work for someone else (74% versus 83%).  

Small business owners age 50 and over (90%) are more likely than self-employed workers (83%) and wage and salaried employees (79%) in the same age group to want to continue their current jobs, despite the fact that they work longer hours and experience more demands on the job than others. The study also reports that this group has much more control over their work schedules and the content of their work as well as much greater flexibility on the job.  

These findings are consistent with the 2005 New Workforce Reality Study, by Simmons School of Management and Bright Horizons Family Solutions, which showed that mature workers highly desire the ability to work on their own terms, with varying responsibilities and projects and control over when and how their work gets done.  

Given the higher rate of small business owners and self-employed individuals in older age groups and the tendency of workers of all ages to say they would prefer to work for themselves, organizations that want to recruit and retain mature employees should create work environments that embody some of the positive characteristics of self-employment and business ownership, such as providing more control over work hours and work location, greater flexibility and autonomy, and more challenges and learning opportunities on the job. Organizations that create this kind of environment may find that they will become 'employers of choice' for older employees with valuable skills and experience to offer.
An older business woman leaning on her desk.

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