9 Tips to Effectively Manage Older Employees

October 8, 2021
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Older employees often bring a lot of value to the table, particularly their decades of experience. With that said, though, senior employees often tend to respond better to different leadership styles than younger generations. With this being the case, it’s important for anyone in a leadership role or management position to pay careful attention to how they are managing older employees. In this article, we’ll explore nine tips for how to manage older employees that are sure to make you a more effective manager and leader for more experienced employees.

1) Keep an Open Mind

There are a lot of stereotypes regarding older employees. This includes stereotypes such as the idea that it’s difficult to teach older employees new skills, that older employees are resistant to leveraging technology, that older employees are burned out and tired of their job, and more. As is often the case with stereotypes, these preconceptions can be true just as often as they’re false. As a manager, it is essential for you to keep an open mind and avoid developing predetermined assumptions regarding what older employees will and will not be able to do. Making assumptions about any employee is only going to lead to negative outcomes. If you keep an open mind, you may be surprised by the stereotypes that older employees are capable of defying.

2) Leverage Their Experience

There are few things more valuable than experienced employees. While it isn’t true in every case, older employees will most often be the most experienced employees on your team – and the value this experience offers is something you shouldn’t disregard. Take the time to learn more about your older employees and the experience that they have built over the years. When the opportunity to leverage that experience arises, be sure not to overlook it.

3) Encourage Learning New Skills

An employee that can combine decades of experience with a proficiency in new skills can be a valuable, productive employee to have on your team. While some older employees may be hesitant to adopt new skills and techniques, this won’t always be true. Regardless, you should certainly encourage senior employees to learn new skills whenever possible. When teaching a new skill to an older employee, patience is of vital importance. Years of doing things a certain way isn’t something that can typically be changed overnight, no matter how open-minded an older employee might be. Sometimes extra training is required, but with a little patience and dedication, encouraging older employees to learn new skills is something that can offer a great deal of value to your company.

4) Take the Time to Understand Their Motivations

The motivations and desires of older employees will often differ from those of young employees. Again, you don’t want to stereotype older employees and assume what their motivations might be. However, it is true that older employees often have different professional motivations and aspirations. Taking the time to get to know your employees on a deeper level is ultimately the only way to understand what it is that motivates them to excel.

5) Appreciate Lifestyle Differences

The older people get, the more their lifestyle tends to change. As a manager, it is important for you to recognize and accept these lifestyle differences in your older employees. For example, older employees may not be all that interested in socializing after work. This won’t always be the case, but it is one common example of how the lifestyle and values of older employees can impact their behavior at work. Rather than trying to “correct” these lifestyle differences, it is much better to simply acknowledge and embrace them.

6) Be Open to Feedback

Being open to feedback is one of the most crucial qualities of an effective manager. It is also highly important when it comes to managing older employees. There’s just no getting around the fact that there is bound to be a certain degree of disconnect between a young manager and older employees. The way this disconnect is overcome is by encouraging feedback from your senior employees. Don’t be afraid to ask them how you are doing as their manager and if there is anything you could be doing to make their jobs easier. Encourage honest responses, and really listen to what your older employees are telling you. By encouraging honest feedback and taking it into account, you can take a major step toward adopting a management style that will be best suited for your company’s senior employees.

7) Find Commonalities

If you take the time to get to know your older employees, you are likely to find that you have much more in common than you might think. Finding commonalities and shared interests is a huge part of the social bonding process, and it is always beneficial for managers to form bonds with their employees. Commonalities with older employees could be something as trivial as shared hobbies or being fans of the same sports team. If you make the effort to find similarities such as these, you can start creating deeper bonds with your older employees and lessen the disconnect that you might otherwise experience.

8) Don’t Be Intimidated

Being significantly younger than an employee that you are charged with managing can be a little intimidating at times. We are taught from childhood to view age as an indicator of authority. When the roles are reversed and you find yourself in charge of someone much older than you, it can feel unnatural or awkward. When managing older employees, it is important to keep in mind that you are their manager for a reason. Whatever that reason happens to be, your company has decided to place you in charge. While it’s never a good idea for managers to flex their authority without cause, it’s also essential that managers aren’t afraid to step up and take charge when necessary. Don’t let age, experience, or any other factor intimidate you out of doing your job the way you see fit.

9) Focus on Results

Older employees often have a different way of doing things. When you’ve been working at a job for decades, you tend to develop your own unique approach. Rather than trying to force older employees to adopt a more standard approach, managers should focus on results. So long as your older employees are achieving the desired results, there’s simply no need to try and change their methods. In some cases, a change in methods may be needed, but only if it is necessitated by poor outcomes. If their results are positive, trying to force older employees to change their methods is likely to do much more harm than good.

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