8 Principles and Best Practices for a Senior Friendly Workplace

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I was the director of a task force that worked to educate and brand employers in our area on becoming a “Senior Friendly Workplace.” Focus groups were held and the following principles and best practices were developed from those findings. Employers were contacted and human resource professionals were educated on the principles and best practices. The business could sign an agreement acknowledging their adherence to these standards. This would allow them to be branded a “Senior Friendly Workplace.” They then received a door decal and were able to use the branding in their “help wanted” ads.

I believe the implementation of these principles and practices goes a long way in educating and fighting ageism in the workplace. As promised in my last post, here are the best practices along with the eight principles: 

1.  Principle:  Flexibility of Scheduling
We will exercise flexibility in scheduling senior workers and respect their desire to limit their overall number of hours of employment.

Best Practices:

  • Job Pooling – Take advantage of the maturity and responsibility of senior workers by assigning a block of hours to a group of seniors and allowing the seniors to work out coverage among themselves.
  • Family Friendly Scheduling – Even though their children have left home, older workers may have family issues that they need to accommodate, such as taking a spouse to a medical appointment or attending a granddaughter’s piano recital. Accommodating the family responsibilities can boost the productivity, loyalty and retention of workers of all ages.

2.  Principle:  Physical Accommodations
We will make reasonable accommodations to address the physical limitations faced by our employees, including limitations in stamina or ability brought on by age.

Best Practices:

  • Re-examine Working Conditions – Minor accommodations such as placement of a stool in an area where a senior employee may be stationed for long periods of time (such as a checkout counter), or placing rubber floor mats in a work area with hard floors may substantially increase the stamina and job satisfaction of senior workers.
  • Adaptive Technology – Many types of computerized equipment have adaptive features that may be useful for seniors with some degree of visual impairment. For example, most personal computer operating systems have high-contrast color schemes, large mouse cursors and screen magnifiers built into their operating systems and can be adapted by changing a few simple settings.
  • Physical Accommodations – In almost all cases, employers whose place of business conforms to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act will not experience any difficulties with accommodating the physical needs of older workers. The possible exception may be in the area of scheduling, where some older workers have night-vision problems that prevent safe driving after dark.
  • Workplace Ergonomics – Encouraging good workplace ergonomics is especially important to older workers, and is a sound business practice for workers of all ages. Varying workplace activities to avoid repetitive motion injuries and avoiding extended periods at sedentary tasks are particularly important.

3.  Principle:  Respect
We value the contributions that seniors can make to our organization and pledge to foster an atmosphere of mutual respect in our workplace.

Best Practices:

  • Workplace Atmosphere – Establish, communicate and enforce a policy requiring all workers and supervisors to treat fellow employees with courtesy and respect and prohibiting harassment in all forms. This can have a dramatic impact on increasing productivity and job satisfaction and reducing turnover among employees of all ages.

4.  Principle:  Cultural Accommodation
We recognize that every worker brings a different life experience to the job and will strive to create a working atmosphere that respects these differences and enhances the productivity of all workers.

Best Practices:

  • Accommodate Differences – Every employee has unique personal and cultural values. Simple accommodations like rotating which radio station is playing can go a long way in communicating that you value all your employees.
  • Celebrate Diversity – Show all your employees they are valued by providing the opportunity to share their cultural viewpoints. This can help your staff better understand and serve your customers too!

5.  Principle:  Work Assignments
We will make work assignments based on the skills, abilities, and availability of our workers, and the needs of our business, without regard to the ages of the workers assigned.

Best Practices:

  • Assessment – Look for empirical ways to measure performance of workers on various tasks and let the results guide you in job assignments. (This is a great way of determining where more training could boost productivity too!)
  • Don’t Assume – Take the time to talk to workers about which assignments they like and dislike and why. Where possible and consistent with your staffing needs, try to assign workers to tasks they like. If a task is universally unpopular, asking what people dislike about it can provide clues about how to make it more appealing and improve morale.

6.  Principle:  Recruitment
In our recruitment efforts we will strive to convey the message that workers of all ages are welcome in our workplace.

Best Practices:

  • Target Seniors – Many senior workers assume they are unwanted by employers. Including language in advertisements indicating a willingness to employ seniors can boost your response rate. (e.g. “This is an excellent opportunity for workers of all ages, including senior citizens.”)

7.  Principle:  Compensation & Promotion
In developing our compensation and benefit programs and in selecting candidates for promotion, we will focus on productivity and the value added by the work performed, without regard to the age of the worker assigned.

Best Practices:

  • Communicate to Motivate – Letting your employees know the key factors you are looking for in awarding promotions and pay increases will motivate them to become better employees. You can further reinforce this by taking a few moments to give your staff concrete examples of the behaviors you are rewarding when you award promotions.
  • Don’t Neglect Part-timers – Including part-time employees in your employee recognition programs and staff events is a real booster for productivity and retention.

8.  Principle:  Training
In offering training to our employees, we will attempt to accommodate the learning styles and starting places of individual workers.

Best Practices:

  • Tailor Your Training – Like younger workers, different senior citizens have different learning styles. Asking workers how they prefer to learn new skills (reading, lecture, mentoring, video, interaction, etc.) and tailoring your training can reduce frustration for both you and for the worker and can help bring the new worker up to speed more quickly.
  • Mentor New Workers – You can boost a new worker’s learning curve by scheduling regular intervals over the first few weeks of employment to talk about what is going well and where they have questions or are having difficulties. Use these opportunities to praise the things that are going well and to provide supplemental training in areas that are a struggle for the new worker.

These Principles and Best Practices for a Senior Friendly Workplace were developed by the Senior Employment Committee of the West Central Minnesota Labor Force Development Council, West Central Initiative, 1000 Western Avenue, Fergus Falls MN  56537.

AGEISM: Prejudice or discrimination against a particular age-group and especially the elderly.

VOCATIONAL WELLNESS – Working keeps us engaged and growing. If you’re not working, volunteer to help others, get involved in an avocation.

4 Comments

  1. Kathy
    George Cappannelli, CEO of AgeNation here. We offer information, inspiration, engagement and solutions to our older GenXer, Boomer and Elder audience. Our AgeNation Post offers material in 9 categories and NEXT, our new digital magazine, is just getting started.

    If you are interested in allowing us to reprint this and other pieces or you’d like to share new material with us, we’d be delighted.

    Warm regards

    George Cappannelli
    AgeNation – agenation@gmail.com

    • George, Please feel free to reprint this. I would appreciate a copy of whatever you print. – Kathy

  2. Hi Kathy,
    I run a small, non profit, Senior Center in Northern California. I do a number of articles annually for both our newsletter and our local weekly newspaper. I would also like to use parts of your blogs in beginning (and continuing) the discussion on ageism.

    Thanks.

    Terry Kelley
    Sebastopol Area Senior Center

    • Terry, I am always thrilled when someone re-blogs, tweets or quotes me from my blog. Thank you for the compliment. Also, thank you for helping to carry the torch by educating people on ageism in Northern California. Let me know how it goes. (Don’t be surprised if you hear, “Age what?”) That’s how uneducated our society is right now. Best of luck.

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