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Six Age-Friendly Practices Proving to Be Good for Business

Ilyse Veron November 5, 2018
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Want to foster an inclusive culture? National experts on generations research say there are business benefits to being age-friendly.

Multigenerational workplace strategies lead to productivity, the Center for Creative Leadership’s Senior Research Scientist Jennifer Deal asserts. Plus, there’s savings in reduced turnover and retention from age-friendly business changes, according to AARP Senior Vice President Jean Setzfand.

Here are six recognized best business practices to consider:

  • Onboard new staff to be age-friendly, accessible and respectful. From day one, employees should show respect. “The idea of what respect is changes as you age,” says Deal. That’s why best-selling author Paul White coaches teams to ask what respect means. Often older people want respect for their experience, and younger people want it for their fresh ideas.

The American Heart Association, a Nonprofit Times and Fortune best place to work, doesn’t skip a beat on age-friendly practices. They are integrated into work from the orientation. Heart U—AHA’s enterprise-wide staff development system categorizes training by generation and professional practice. Employees learn about topics like communication, diversity and leadership with a generation-sensitive lens.

  • Recruit and employ people who are like your customers. At Katz’s Deli in Manhattan, a 2018 AgeSmart business award winner, older customers say they only want the most experienced servers preparing their food. Much larger businesses like CVS and Aetna (which together will be even bigger) are certified as age-friendly by retirementjobs.com for their commitment to providing people 50+ “meaningful employment, development opportunities and competitive pay and benefits for those employees.”

“Can you link age of workforce to store profitability? The answer is yes,” confirms retirementjobs.com CEO Tim Driver. Even slight upticks in “customer satisfaction can dramatically impact store profitability and increase penetration of the mature customer market.” AARP research concurs in their business case here.

  • Help employees maintain balance—mentally and physically. Strengthening body and mind is related. Aetna’s Mindfulness officers say that settling the mind can improve productivity because it sets your focus. It also helps you pay more attention to the things around you that could make you trip.

Physical falls drive significant spending on personal health and also can cause disabilities. The SilverCup studio known for shooting the Sopranos, Sex in the City and other popular programs, is another AgeSmart business. The studio moves older workers into safer jobs. They can be productive in ways that don’t involve balancing and moving with heavy equipment.

  • Educate universally. “People assume older people don’t want to learn, and they are completely and utterly wrong,” Deal emphasizes. Don’t discriminate by age when providing training. The OECD says it’s in business’ interest to train older workers, as talent is increasingly scarce.
  • Try a mentoring program or “menternships.” The best mentor relationships are reciprocal, and older people may want a Menternship, as Setzfand calls it, to try something new before retiring. Matching employees for mentor relationships can dissipate friction over different experiences and bias around life stages. “Mentoring is bidirectional. Everybody has something to learn, and everybody has something to teach,” says Deal.
  • Make communication accessible, rather than exclusive. These days some workers may only want to report in to a CRM tool like Salesforce. Others really want a face-to-face conversation. Companies can share messages on multiple platforms and create specialty group chats. To ensure inclusivity, Deal explains, “It’s important that everyone knows the organizational standard on communication. You don’t want systematic exclusion.”
Ilyse Veron

Ilyse Veron writes about business and public policy challenges from the nation’s capital. She met her sources at AARP’s longevity events, at Govloop’s evening on mindfulness, during The Atlantic Festival, at the McDonough School of Business Executive Education Leadership Forum, and in the virtual world.

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