What Older Employees Want Out Of Their Job
There is little doubt that great employees are an organization’s number one resource. Keeping workers happy helps strengthen an organization in many ways, including:
Lower Turnover – Turnover can be one of the highest costs attributed to the HR department. Retaining workers helps create a better environment, and makes it easier to recruit quality talent and save money. The bottom line: satisfied employees are typically much less likely to leave.
Higher Productivity – Irrespective of job title and pay grade, employees who report high job satisfaction tend to achieve higher productivity.
Loyalty – When employees feel the company has their best interests at heart, they often support its mission and work hard to help achieve its objectives. And, they may be more likely to tell their friends, which helps spread goodwill.
But employee job satisfaction varies by age. What contributes to job satisfaction for someone in their 30s is different than that of someone in their 50s.
The Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College surveyed workers age 50+ at large companies about the quality of their employment. What The Sloan Center found was an enormous gap between what was important to employees and brought job satisfaction and how well they felt employers were delivering.
The workers surveyed said the most important element for a quality job wasn’t pay and benefits (that ranked third). It was “promotion of constructive relationships at the workplace," which basically means receiving support from your supervisors and coworkers.
Second in importance was “opportunities for meaningful work.” That refers to whether you think: your skills and experience are valued and used well; you’re making a difference in the world and your job provides opportunities for the things you value personally.
Meaningful work is a key reason many professional men and women over 60 haven’t retired, according to surveys by Elizabeth Fideler for her books Men Still at Work and Women Still at Work.
Fideler says, “Both men and women said that making a difference was high up on their lists” for job satisfaction.
But about a third of the older workers that The Sloan Center surveyed weren’t satisfied with opportunities for meaningful work.
What Older Workers Are Least Satisfied About
Older workers were the least satisfied about these two factors, which are closely related:
1) Opportunities for Development, Learning and Advancement
Just 40% of men and 43% of women were satisfied. “Historically, this has been a problem for older workers,” says Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, director at The Sloan Center. “People tend to get most of their training earlier in their careers.”
2) Provisions for Employment Security and Predictabilities
Only 37% of men and 26% of women were satisfied. “Provisions for employment security and predictability” isn’t about a fear of layoffs. “It’s about whether the workers feel the experience and skills they’ve accumulated would make them employable, versus working for a company where the tasks are so unique that if you lose your job, you’re up a creek,” says Pitt-Catsouphes. “Or your field is dying, so your skills wouldn’t be wanted.”
The older you get, adds Pitt-Catsouphes, the more you worry about whether the job you’re prepared for will be a job for the future.
What Employers Need to Do
Pitt-Catsouphes thinks employers need to step up their game to increase older workers' satisfaction for both of these quality of employment factors.
“We hear in focus groups with older workers that, in theory, there are learning opportunities available to everybody but in reality, they’re designed with early-career employees in mind,” Pitt-Catsouphes said at the Aging in America conference.
When Sloan surveyed U.S. employers, 40% said they were offering too few training programs for older workers.
“A lot of employers make the assumption that older workers are either not interested in learning and training or — worst case — get annoyed about having to learn something new,” she says. “But that’s not the case. They want to be challenged and learn new things.”
Forbes Richard Eisenberg, Contributor, Next Avenue Contributor Group