South-Western - Management  
At Work, Age is Still More Than a Number
Topic Managing Human Resource Systems
Key Words Training, promotion opportunities, older workers
News Story

In a recent poll of 150 HR executives, 17% admitted providing older workers with fewer chances for promotion, and 11% said they give older workers fewer challenging assignments. Older was defined as age 50 or older.

Most companies believe they have a standard policy that covers all ages, but in reality, it is not always implemented equally. A Bureau of Labor Statistics study shows that older workers receive less formal and informal training. Companies feel this is because although all workers are offered training, many older workers elect not to take it. However, most older workers state they are capable of taking on more responsibility and would like more training and development.

Part of the problem arises from the fact that the workers and management are at odds. Older workers feel that management wants to bring new blood in, and management feels that older workers are "just marking time." However, layoffs and early retirements have contributed to the need for companies to retain older workers. Because of the smaller pool of workers following the baby boom, as many as 4.6 million jobs could go unfilled by 2008.

Companies should do an age profile of their workers, taking stock of how many older workers they are likely to lose and determine if they should try to keep them.

Questions
1.

Why is it important for a company to assess its workforce and develop an age profile?

2. What are some ways companies could entice older workers to stay in their jobs?
Source Kelly Greene, "At Work, Age is Still More Than a Number," Wall Street Journal Online, April 10, 2003.
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