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Branding Your Company as Age-Diverse

Some employers only apply age-friendly strategies during the recruitment process. Their job ads appeal to candidates over 50. Their recruiters visit places that attract mature workers. Even during interviews, they tell candidates how much their experience is valued. But that's where it stops.

In reality, the age-friendly mentality needs to be ingrained throughout the organization's culture - in offices, on the production floor and in the executive suite. Employers need to establish a culture that respects workers of all ages and skills. Otherwise, the recruiters' efforts may appear to be nothing more than a smokescreen.

Enable your recruiters to attract top talent of all ages and experience. These examples demonstrate how you can brand your company as age-diverse.

Reward Experience

While an estimated 64 million workers-more than 40 percent of the US labor force-will be eligible for retirement by 2010, the number of 35 to 44 year-olds who normally would move into senior management ranks will decline by 10 percent, according to The Conference Board. How can companies avoid sudden knowledge gaps, known as "brain drain"?

Consider promoting mature workers. Promotions should be age-irrelevant, says Roy Richards, business consultant in Clive, Iowa, and author of Wake Up Captain and Crew Restart Your Engines. "Older people should not be held back simply because they're of retirement age," he says. "Challenge employees right up until their last day on the job. Give them special project opportunities where they can earn financial bonuses or rewards for their outstanding contributions."

Another option: recognize the experience of long-term workers, says Jamie Hale, practice leader of workforce planning at Watson Wyatt in Dallas. Introduce them as professionals during a staff meeting, focusing on their strengths, what they can contribute to the team, then clarify their overall role. Set the stage for employees to respect and value people's experiences, no matter what age. Hale adds that the retention of mature workers will likely increase if they're hired in groups. "People like to work with people like themselves," she explains.

Introduce Coaching Opportunities

For the first time in U.S. history, four generations are working side-by-side, each with its own set of skills, communication style, and work ethic. However, a mixed labor force can present integration problems.

A company can ensure harmony among its workforce by teaching mature workers how to coach others. That's appealing for those who want to contribute and belong, says Warren Cinnick, director of people and change practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Chicago. "They learn how to interact with younger generations and what their expectations are - [their] different work habits, styles [and] ethics," says Cinnick, who also refers to this as "active blending."

Cinnick points to one company that spends several hours each week for one month training older workers on how to coach. They develop a structured six-month to one-year plan that lays the groundwork, connecting multiple generations in the workplace. If they "early on get a chance to coach others in the things they know, and they in turn have a coach who has some internal knowledge of that company, the productivity of that worker is accelerated," he says.

Ask What They Need

Key Equipment Finance in Superior, Col., is exploring different ways to integrate its workforce. Of its 841 U.S. employees, 25 percent are over the age of 50.

To meet the diverse needs of all employees, the company formed several focus groups, each consisting of approximately 35 employees representing different age groups. Their mission? Find ways for the company's workforce to become more cohesive and work more effectively as a team, says Jeremy Eaves, human resources director. "After we collected their opinions, we developed an advisory committee that has been very integral to making recommendations about what it needs to do in our workforce," Eaves noted.

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