Intergenerational Workforce Solutions: Job Sharing and Mentoring
The economic upheaval we’ve experienced since 2007 has really upended our long-held assumptions about employment and retirement. My generation grew up thinking that we would retire comfortably at age 65 and that younger people would naturally come along to take our jobs and keep the economy growing.
That plan hasn’t worked out too well for many older workers who simply cannot afford to retire, due to the severe hit their pension plans took in 2007 and 2008. The recession has been just as devastating for younger people, who aren’t finding the vacant career positions they thought would be waiting for them after they collected their diplomas.
So, what happens now? Do we simply advocate for the rights of older workers to stay in the workforce while ignoring the need of younger workers to enter it? Or is it time to start thinking differently about work and retirement so younger and older workers can collaborate on resolving this dilemma?
Some intriguing possibilities are coming to the fore!
- Job Sharing: What if we encouraged older and younger workers to share a job? That would create career opportunities for younger workers while tapping older, more experienced workers to mentor and train their younger colleagues. Job sharing in the aging field could bolster on-the-job training programs. It could even cut down on workplace injuries. We could ask younger workers to carry out the physically demanding tasks associated with caregiving while continuing to rely on older workers for their clinical knowledge and caregiving experience.
- A New Mentoring Model: Why not give younger people the opportunity to mentor older adults? Recently educated young workers could impart valuable skills and new perspectives to older workers. Technology is one area that comes to mind immediately, especially in light of a recent New York Times report documenting the career opportunities that older adults miss because they lack computer skills.
- Intergenerational Competence: Many providers of aging services already ask older and younger employees to work together on care teams. Can we do a better job of preparing those teams for success by offering specialized training that encourages mutual respect and facilitates better communication between generations? Can we share best practices with other employers?