This article was updated on July 27, 2018.
In the 2015 film, "The Intern," Robert De Niro played Ben Whittaker, a 70-year-old widower bored with retirement who joins an internet startup as a senior intern. His character brings a wealth of experience and wisdom that makes a vital impact on the budding business and its young CEO, Jules Osten, played by Anne Hathaway. The lesson here? More tenured workers have much to offer and can still play an important role in workplace dynamics, even while younger generations may be taking on leadership positions.
An Unexpected Mentor
Jules, for instance, was so caught up in growing her startup that she was inattentive to the needs of those who worked for her and bristled at criticism. With his patient, calm demeanor, business acumen and willingness to take interest in everyone he met, Ben showed Jules that she was piling too much work on key employees — and was taking on too much personally, leading to unhealthy habits that were keeping her from sleeping and spending time with family.
Similarly, all types of organizations can benefit when they're willing to honor the knowledge and life experience of more tenured workers and solicit their input and advice.
More Tenured Workers Can Bring Wisdom
Baby boomers may be reaching the traditional retirement age, but people are living much longer than they once did, and for many, there's no rush to stop working. Whether for financial reasons or just a desire to continue contributing, baby boomers workers who aren't ready to stop working can bring a wealth of benefits to businesses.
Of course, workers who are experienced in a certain industry or organization can impart their years of industry knowledge to younger employees. But the value of more tenured workers goes even further than that. Harvard Business Review found experienced workers can teach important habits and approaches to their younger counterparts. Experienced workers have often learned to better manage their time, allowing them to find a greater work-life balance, as well as how to better manage their finances. These types of skills can be invaluable to younger workers.
Implement Innovative Programs at Your Organization
Employers can encourage interactions between older and younger workers simply by placing them on work teams together. But organizations can also look to other innovative programs that are specifically focused on establishing mentor-like connections between senior and inexperienced workers.
If your organization doesn't have many senior workers, it can still benefit from the knowledge of experienced executives. For instance, you might implement a senior intern program similar to "The Intern." Or bring in outside consultants with decades of experience, such as the senior entrepreneurs sprouting in Florida towns, as noted by Forbes.
Forbes reports that 70-year-old Jean Cannon, owner of My Startup Suncoast, has established a virtual ecosystem for entrepreneurs that brings decades of business experience and knowledge to other small firms in her area. With more than a quarter of the local population over 65 years old in her town of Sarasota, many of the fledgling entrepreneurs who use her service gain multiple lifetimes worth of experience to share within their organizations.
Regardless of how you decide to bring senior workers into your business, younger employees are sure to benefit from their knowledge and experience.
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