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Workforce Planning: Aging and Employment Module 5: Managing Productivity. Barbara McIntosh, Ph.D. Module Overview. I. Ability and physical health II. Managing multigenerational teams III. Productivity: training, retraining and organizational learning. Ability and Physical Health.

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module overview
Module Overview

I. Ability and physical health

II. Managing multigenerational teams

III. Productivity: training, retraining and organizational learning

ability and physical health
Ability and Physical Health

Some older workers may have health problems, disabilities or physical limitations.

  • The likelihood of having a disabilityincreases with age; reported rates double from 19.4 percent for ages 45-54 to 38.4 percent for ages 65-69.¹
  • Ergonomic changes in the workplace can address some of these issues.²


1. Steinmetz, E., Americans with Disabilities: 2000. U.S. Census Bureau publication, May 2006.


self reported health status
Self-Reported Health Status
  • BUT attitudes about health status more readily correlates with workforce participation;
  • AND workforce participation positively affects their attitude and cognitive status.
  • Between 2000 and 2002, 73 percent of people aged 65 and over rated their health as good or better.


Federal Interagency Forum on Aging Related Statistics. (2004). Older Americans 2004. Key Indicators of Well-Being.Washington, D.C., xv.

mental health status and work
Mental Health Status and Work
  • The annual cost of mental illness—including the cost of lost productivity—in the U.S. is $79 billion.¹
  • The National Study of the Changing Workforce found that among those working, mental health improves with age:²
    • Only 16.6 percent of those 50 years of age or older reported poor mental health compared to 31.2 percent of those 18 to 30 years of age.
    • 32.4 percent of those 50 years of age or older reported good mental health compared to 19.4 percent of those 18 to 30 years of age.


1. President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. (2003). Achieving the Promise: Transforming Mental Health Care in America. (Publication No. SMA-03-3832). Rockville, MD: Department of Health and Human Services.

2. Shen, C., Pitt-Catsouphes, M., & Smyer, M. (2007) Today’s Multi-generational Workforce: A Proposition of Value. Issue Brief 10. Center on Aging and Work, Boston College.

cost concerns
Cost Concerns
  • Wide variation in the provision of health-related benefits.
    • Smaller, private organizations are generally less likely than medium and larger organizations or government entities to offer these benefits.
  • Fear about need to make “reasonable accommodations” for older workers:
    • In actuality, one-fifth of job accommodations cost nothing, and 50 percent cost less than $500.
    • Further, employers reported an average return of $28.69 in benefits for every dollar invested in accommodations.

Source: The Job Accommodation Network, U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.

multi generational workforce necessity not nicety
Multi-Generational Workforce: Necessity Not Nicety
  • By 2012, 40 percent all U.S. workers will be more than 40 years of age
  • By 2012, 36 percent of the senior executive service (the corps of civil service leaders) and 27 percent of federal supervisors are projected to retire.
  • The federal government, the nation’s largest employer, is now older than the overall U.S. workforce:
    • 58 percent of federal workers are older than 45 years of age.
    • 41 percent of private sector workers are older than 45 years of age.
    • Already multi-generational in some sectors.


Partnership for Public Service. (2008). A Golden Opportunity: Recruiting Baby Boomers Into Government. Washington, DC: Partnership for Public Service.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. (September 2007). The Employment Situation: September 2007, September 2006 and the Central Personnel Data File. U.S. Office of Personnel Management, September 2005.

factors driving a multigenerational workforce
Factors Driving a Multigenerational Workforce

Labor shortages.

Knowledge-based labor (not physical labor).

Team (not hierarchical) culture.



what do we know about how multiple generations interact
What Do We Know About How Multiple Generations Interact?
  • Interaction research literature:
    • Family-based:
      • Parenting.
      • Grandparenting.
    • Relationship-based:
      • Supervising/counseling children, young adults.
      • Teaching (expert).
      • Mentoring (sharing).
    • Work-based:
      • Reporting structures.
      • Professional goals and expectations.
cohort characteristics all valued all needed
Cohort Characteristics: All Valued, All Needed
  • Veterans (1909-1945):
    • Outlook: practical.
    • Work ethic: dedicated.
    • View of authority: respectful.
    • Leadership by hierarchy.
    • Relationships: personal sacrifice.
    • Perspective: civic.
  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964):
    • Outlook: optimistic.
    • Work ethic: driven.
    • View of authority: love/hate.
    • Leadership by consensus.
    • Relationships: personal gratification.
    • Perspective: team.
cohort characteristics all valued all needed1
Cohort Characteristics: All Valued, All Needed
  • Generation X (1965-1985):
    • Outlook: skeptical.
    • Work ethic: balanced.
    • View of authority: unimpressed.
    • Leadership by competence.
    • Relationships: reluctant to commit.
    • Perspective: self.
  • Generation Y/Millennial (1986- ):
    • Outlook: hopeful.
    • Work ethic: ambitious.
    • View of authority: relaxed, polite.
    • Leadership by achievers.
    • Relationships: loyal.
    • Perspective: civic.

Raines, C. (2003). Connecting Generations. Menlo Park, CA.: Crisp Publications.

messages that shaped them
Messages that Shaped Them
  • Veterans (1909-1945):
    • Make do or do without.
    • Stay in line.
    • Sacrifice.
    • Be heroic.
    • Consider the common good.
  • Baby Boomers ( 1946-1964):
    • Be anything you want to be.
    • Change the world.
    • Work well with others.
    • Live up to expectations.
    • Duck and cover.
messages that shaped them1
Messages that Shaped Them
  • Generation X (1965-1985):
    • Don’t count on it.
    • Remember--heroes…aren’t.
    • Get real.
    • Survive—staying alive.
    • Ask why.
  • Generation Y/Millennial (1986- ):
    • Be smart—you are special.
    • Leave no one behind.
    • Connect 24/7.
    • Achieve now!
    • Serve your community.

Raines, C. (2003). Connecting Generations. Menlo Park, CA.: Crisp Publications.


Stereotyping is the process of assigning traits to people based on their membership in a social category.

  • There is wider variation within cohorts than among cohorts.
  • Generalizations, however, offer insight, awareness, and empathy.
  • Social cognition--self-ascribed characterizations.
social identity theory
Social Identity Theory
  • How we see ourselves as unique individuals defines, in part, our identity.
  • Identity also comes in large part from membership in different social groups (our social identity).

For example: “I am a mother, wife, and teacher. My family lives in California and I am a skier.”

Membership in each of these groups carries different connotations.

management implications
Management Implications

#1: Manage organizational culture.

  • Respect (all forms of diversity)
  • Value others (contributions to the team)
  • Sensitivity to other perspectives
  • Openness to change
  • Policies and practices re treatment of others
  • Top management – voice
generational awareness
Generational Awareness


Training: develop a value proposition for each generation.

Review policies and practices in terms of preferences.

Review makeup of the board of directors.

six principles for mixing generations c raines
Six Principles for Mixing Generations (C. Raines)

Initiate conversations about generations.

Ask people about their needs and preferences.

Offer options.

Personalize your style.

Build on strengths.

Pursue different perspectives.

generations friendly
Generations Friendly?

There’s not just one type of person who is successful here.

We consciously form teams to involve multiple perspectives.

Employees are treated as customers.

We talk about different viewpoints.

generations friendly1
Generations Friendly?

We talk openly about what we want from our jobs.

We have a minimum of bureaucracy.

Our work atmosphere is relaxed and informal.

We have a lot of fun together.

We are known for being straightforward with each other.

generations friendly2
Generations Friendly?

We expect the best from everyone and treat them as if they have great things to offer and are motivated to do their best.

We focus on retention every day.

Our work assignments are broad, providing variety and challenge and allowing each employee to develop a range of skills.

Adapted from: Zemke, R., Raines, C., & Filipczak, B. (2000). Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers and Nexters in Your Workplace. NY: Amacom.

attitudes productivity training

Is there cooperation across generations?

Are individuals, regardless of age, held accountable (e.g., meaningful performance appraisals)?

Do stereotypes unintentionally create barriers for older workers’ training and development?

Do older workers fail to take advantage of training and development opportunities because of social cognition and social identity?

productivity training and development
Productivity: Training and Development
  • Upgrading or developing new skills that require training is essential in all businesses (necessity, not luxury).
  • Older workers are not a poor investment for training. Employers cannot make assumptions about retention and ROI.
  • Older workers provide value in institutional knowledge that employers frequently fail to consider when thinking only about external costs

(Committee for Economic Development. (1999). 35-6.)

  • “New challenges” is a primary determinant of employees’ intention to stay in an organization (and therefore a valuable retention tool).
purpose and outcome of training
Purpose and Outcome of Training
  • Clarity on reasons for training!



New Skills?

  • Goals/Assessment:

Organization’s objectives?

Contribution to performance?

Value of performance increases compared to cost of training.

learning training differences
Learning/Training Differences

Well-learned procedures: maintained into old age. There is little evidence to suggest that older workers are less productive than younger workers (Czaja, 2001; Fisk et al., 2004).

Acquiring new skills: older adults take longer to complete the training and demonstrated less mastery of the training material (Kubeck, 1996).

learning training differences1
Learning/Training Differences
  • Older adults take longer to perform a new task.
  • Older adults require more help and hands-on practice.
  • Training techniques did not vary much with age in large meta-analysis.

BOTTOM LINE: Not enough research has been conducted in this area.

productivity training and retraining
Productivity: Training and Retraining

Acquiring or maintaining computer skills is key.

In 2003:

  • 56 percent of 30-49 year olds were online.
  • 36 percent of 50-64 year olds were online.
  • Only 25 percent of Americans age 65 and older were online.
  • However, Internet usage among seniors is rising dramatically.


Czaja, S.J., Charness, N., Fisk, A.D., Hertzog. C., Nair, S.N., Rogers, W. and Sharit, J. (2006). Factors Predicting the Use of Technology: Findings From the Center for Research and Education on Aging and Technology Enhancement (CREATE). Psychological Aging, June 21 (2) 333-352.

Pew Internet and American Life Project, Older Americans and the Internet, March 2004.

employer investment considerations
Employer Investment Considerations
  • Investing in training older workers:
    • Con: Older workers may be close to retirement, reducing the return on investment.
    • Pro: A key way to retain aging workers is to provide growth and challenge.
  • Other investment considerations that support additional training:
    • Experiential capital.
    • Social capital: professional and client/customer networks.
managing productivity summary
Managing Productivity Summary

I.Ability and health

II. Managing a multigenerational workforce

III. Productivity:

  • Training
  • Retraining
  • Investment considerations

Each area offers multiple opportunities for HR to address older worker issues.