What It Takes to be an 'Age-Friendly' Workplace
Workspan Daily
September 27, 2022
Key Takeaways

  • A difference of opinion. Recent data finds more than two-thirds of employers viewing their organizations as being “age-friendly,” with fewer employees feeling the same way about the companies that employ them. 
  • Giving caregivers a hand. Organizations are embracing a multigenerational workforce in some respects, such as offering programs to support caregiving employees and benefits that offer referrals to backup care, for example.   
  • Making the transition. While only three in 10 organizations have a formal phased retirement program, some have work-related programs to help pre-retirees transition, including flexible work schedules and arrangements (44%) and the ability to reduce hours and shift from full-time to part-time (36%). 
  • Set up to succeed. A number of steps can help ensure that employees of all ages thrive, such as flexible work arrangements, programs to support lifelong learning, caregiver resources, phased retirement and a generations-focused employee resource group. 

A pair of surveys conducted by the Transamerica Institute and its Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (TCRS) finds more than two-thirds of employers viewing their organizations as being “age-friendly.” It’s a smaller number of employees, however, who feel the same way about the companies that employ them.  

In the two separate polls, the Transamerica Institute surveyed nearly 1,900 executives who make decisions about employee benefits, with a separate poll garnering responses from more than 5,400 employed adults.  

In the former survey, most employers (84%) said they consider their companies to be “age-friendly” by offering opportunities, work arrangements, and training and tools designed to help employees of all ages to be successful. However, only 65% of employees responding in the latter poll expressed the same sentiment about their employers.  

These organizations are “embracing a multigenerational workforce in some respects, but, in other ways, they have not yet addressed the opportunity,” according to a statement summarizing findings from the surveys.  

Eight in 10 of the companies Transamerica surveyed reported offering one or more programs to support caregiving employees, including unpaid leave of absence (37%), paid leave of absence (31%), online resources and/or tools (27%), an employee assistance program that offers counseling and referral services (23%), and a benefit that offers referrals to backup care (22%). 

With regard to older workers nearing retirement age, however, only three in 10 organizations have a formal phased retirement program with specific provisions and requirements (31%). Regardless of whether they offer a formal program, some employers have work-related programs to help pre-retirees transition including flexible work schedules and arrangements (44%), the ability to reduce hours and shift from full-time to part-time (36%), and the ability to take on less stressful or demanding jobs (34%).  

The type of perceptual and communication gaps illustrated in these findings “are fairly common,” said Catherine Collinson, CEO and president of Transamerica Institute and TCRS.  

“Especially with the pandemic and many employees working remotely, it has become much more difficult for employers to foster cultural changes within an organization.”  

Having more remote work options are one way that employees, regardless of age, “may want work conditions adjusted to their personal circumstances,” said Dave Ulrich, partner at the RBL Group and a professor of business at the Ross School, University of Michigan.   

“We’ve found in our research on drivers of work that all employees, of any age, have fundamental and shared needs why they work: to believe (meaning and purpose), become (learning and growth), and belong (connection and relationship), but how they work may differ.”  

Of course, there are a number of steps employers can take to ensure that employees in all age groups are set up for success with the organization.  

For example, Collinson urges employers to consider conducting an employee survey with the ability to analyze results by generation and/or age range. The insights gained “could yield opportunities, pain points and specific areas of focus for employers, ranging from work arrangements and training programs to employee engagement initiatives,” she said, noting that Transamerica research finds “relatively few employers” implementing a diversity and inclusion policy statement that includes age among other commonly referenced demographic characteristics.  

Such a statement helps demonstrate an employer’s commitment to its employees in all demographic groups, as well as to other stakeholders, Collinson said. In addition, “employers could consider flexible work arrangements to support work-life balances, benefit offerings, programs to support lifelong learning, caregiver resources, phased retirement and a generations-focused employee resource group.” 

Editor’s Note: Additional Content 
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