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Go “WEST” – Employers urged to capitalise on their older workers’ fundamental skills and attributes


Wisdom, Experience, Stability and Tenacity are four key attributes which define older workers and differentiate them from their younger colleagues.  They are also essential components of business success yet in these difficult economic times many employers are overlooking the potential role of their older workers in contributing to their organisation’s sustained performance, innovation and competitive strength.

This is the view of age management specialists in my prime who are urging employers to focus on ways in which their older employees might contribute more to the business at both a strategic and operational level.

Dianne Bown-Wilson, co-founder of in my prime, explains:

“Employers and older employees alike need to revisit that well-known rallying cry, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country” and see how this might be applied in terms of how older workers might add more within their workplace.”

“In some cases employers are directly comparing their older employees with their younger colleagues and making decisions about their future employment in ways which may be damaging the foundations of the business. They may also be demotivating older individuals who are already feeling under threat and under-valued. Even those who may feel relatively secure may be experiencing increasing disaffection; a recent CIPD research report* revealed that many more older employees are now having to work for longer than they may have anticipated, creating problems for employers in engaging those who are doing so reluctantly.”

“Evidence shows that a beneficial way forward for both businesses and their older employees is for employers to open a dialogue with older employees on an individual basis to explore with them the ways in which they might better utilise the specific attributes that older workers have to offer. For example, many may be working at sub-optimum levels due to boredom with their job, lack of ongoing training and development, and a feeling of being marginalised and lacking in value.” 

“Yet these are people who may be prepared to work more flexibly in ways that would suit both the business and themselves, to do more to meet competitive challenges, and to give back through mentoring and supporting younger colleagues. For example, due to inaccurate ageist stereotypes it is often thought that older people are stuck in their ways and inflexible whereas they may be those whose experience enables them to be most innovative and forward thinking if given the right encouragement.”

“We would urge all employers to address the WEST model within their organisations, using it   to examine how they are actively utilising the Wisdom, Experience, Stability and Tenacity of their older workforce. The majority are likely to find that there is a great deal that could be done in this arena with little associated cost and much to be gained in terms of increased productivity, performance and increased levels of engagement.”

“As enlightened employers have already found, good workforce management is not a case of treating all workers and generations the same, but of identifying and developing the strengths and differences each has to offer.”

*Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development – The Employee Outlook Survey


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