By 2050, approximately 19 percent of the US workforce will consist of workers aged sixty-five or older, according to US Census data. As a result, human resources professionals must be aware of how worker age affects the workplace. Older workers have many valuable skills, but there are issues related to age discrimination and generational conflict you must be aware of if you handle recruitment, compensation administration, training, or employee relations duties.
You must be aware of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act if you are responsible for hiring, terminating, or promoting employees. The ADEA prohibits discrimination against workers who are forty years of age or older when making decisions related to hiring, compensation, and the terms of a worker's employment. The ADEA also prohibits employers from segregating people based on worker age. If you do not follow this law, your company may be liable for age discrimination. A group of San Francisco firefighters recently sued their employer for this type of discrimination, winning a $3.7 million verdict.
Generational conflict is another issue that can develop as worker age increases. Baby boomers have different values and needs than members of Generation Y, for example, so you may find it difficult to create employee incentive programs and compensation packages that meet the needs of every employee. Worker age also affects the way employees use technology. Baby boomers often prefer to use the telephone, but members of Generation Y usually rely on email and the Internet for getting the information they need. Human resources professionals must know how to resolve conflicts between older and younger workers, or employee satisfaction could decrease significantly.
You must also consider worker age when developing workplace training programs. Older workers may prefer lectures or role playing sessions instead of Web-based training, but you need to determine if these training methods are right for your company. You must also be able to balance the wants and needs of older employees with the needs of younger workers. Some employers allow workers to choose which training methods they prefer. Older employees often acquire and evaluate information based on their personal and professional experiences, so you must account for these differences when developing training modules and determining the best way to conduct post-training assessments.
Older employees bring advanced skills and varied experiences to the workplace, making them valuable assets for any employer. If you are going to keep workers happy, you must be able to make ethical hiring decisions, create fair compensation packages, and resolve generational conflicts. You must also develop training programs suited to older employees, or they may find it difficult to learn new material. If you comply with the ADEA and design all of your human resources programs with worker age in mind, you will be able to retain older employees without disregarding the needs of younger workers.
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