Managing Experienced Workers

We always seem to be discussing how to manage the new generation of workers. The ones who enter the work force with no supposed loyalty to their companies and an entitlement to live a balanced life. But what about the most experienced workers? Why is no one talking about them?

These are the employees who have a great deal of knowledge about the organization, its customers, and the industry as a whole. But we don’t often talk about these employees except when discussing the huge demographic shift that is happening. These employees will be leaving their organizations within the next 5-10 years, so we tend to focus on what’s next. How do we effectively develop the next generation of workers?

So why do we overlook these employees, even though they still work for us? Because we think of these experienced workers as dinosaurs who are out of date with the current realities of the business world and stuck in their old ways. It is so difficult to get them to change their ways, so why bother? In some cases, that will be true, that the more experienced workers will not want to change. But in many cases, it’s simply not true. Here are some ideas on how to maximize the value of these more experienced workers, even those that don’t want to change:

  • Ask if there are any initiatives they would like to lead – Many experienced workers still have the desire to learn new skills and lead new initiatives. Identify those with the best potential and give them an opportunity to lead.
  • Offer them mentoring opportunities – As many workers get more experienced, they shift their mindset from ‘doer’ to ‘teacher.’ Give them opportunities to mentor new employees or high potential leaders. This will allow them to contribute to the organization in new and creative ways.
  • Train them in new roles – Some experienced workers are actually ready and willing to make a change. Find a new role where they can be more valuable. 5-10 years is still a long way away, so investing in their development will not be a wasted effort.
  • Offer them early retirement – For those that really don’t want to change, offer them an easy out. Give the next person in line the opportunity to make their mark on the organization. Everyone will benefit.
  • Have them train apprentices – Even if your experienced workers don’t want to take on formal mentoring opportunities, always have them train other people on what they know, so that knowledge is not lost. Knowledge management will become more important so you need to capture all of that relevant knowledge.
  • Help them find other jobs – If your experienced workers are no longer a good fit for your organization, then help them find new roles elsewhere. They have been loyal to your organization for a long time, so it is time for you to show loyalty to them and support them on their new endeavours.

As you can see, there are many different options to ensure experienced workers continue to add value to your organization. Don’t just focus on the demographic shift, also focus on the people you still have. How will you maximize the value of these experienced workers?


2 thoughts on “Managing Experienced Workers

  1. I agree with everything you’ve suggested! Wonderful. We have no choice but to focus on both demographics, new generation and long term employees. Our work environment is in a significate state of change where longterm employees are grumpy and new employees are confused.
    Finding a way to engage both the new employee and the longer term in that process of change can transform an organization and realize a vision. All of the concepts of change management such as creating awareness, the desire, offering knowledge, developing the ability and being reinforced assist everyone in being an active contributors in organizational change. I think the key, as you mentioned is “maximizing the value” of every employee even when change is difficut.

    • Jennifer, thanks for your comment. It all comes down to the “what’s in it for me?” principle. Can you align what the organization wants with what the employees want? If not, then you need to look at other strategies. Having some people leave an organization sometimes provides the fresh air that organization needs to change the way it operates.

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