Aging Workforces: Risks and Chances

Risks ©Prof. Dr. Jürgen Deller et al. (2020)

Numerous studies show the positive effect of organizational practices, e.g., adaption of work environment, training for older employees, age-friendly organizational climate, on the performance of older employees (e.g., Boehm, Kunze, & Bruch, 2014; Truxillo, Cadiz, & Hammer, 2014). Göbel and Zwick (2013) demonstrated that by implementing age-specific HR practices, the organizational performance with an increasing workforce age can be changed from a negative to a positive trend. Moreover, they point out that the loss of productivity in later life is significantly lower than usually assumed with a maximum loss of 1%.

Furthermore, no substantial disadvantage can be demonstrated regarding the innovativeness of older employees. Based on the number of registered patents, one of the most objective indicators for innovation, the average age of innovators is indeed lower in large technology corporations. However, Nager et al. (2016) have shown that that in the research-intensive industries Life Science, Materials Science and Information Technology more than one third of the patents were initiated by employees aged 55 and older.

Nevertheless, stereotypes towards older people still predominate organizational practice. Conen et al. (2011) had managers assess the extent to which characteristics apply to younger and older employees. Especially the willingness to learn and creativity are attributed substantially less to older employees than to their younger colleagues. Besides, only 41% of the managers attribute productivity to older employees to a high or very high degree, while 62% of the managers do so for younger colleagues.

Consequently, single HR practices are not sufficient to enable a sustainable and successful employment of aging workforces. It requires a focus on an age-inclusive organizational climate and leadership as well. Therefore, the Later Life Workplace Index (LLWI) addresses both HR practices and the superordinate dimensions of organizational climate and leadership.

Age diverse teams can have a positive effect on the organizational success (e.g., Göbel & Zwick, 2013; James, McKechnie, & Swanberg, 2011).

Chances ©Prof. Dr. Jürgen Deller et al. (2020)