by Roy Saunderson | December 10, 2010
Believe it or not, in five years, one out of every five workers will be over the age of 55. This will provide employers with a unique opportunity to operate with a more mature and experienced workforce. There are some unique angles to be aware of when motivating and retaining mature employees. Keep these top 10 recognition and motivational ideas in mind:

1. Tap into mature workers’ wealth of knowledge. Create opportunities for older employees to mentor new and junior staff members. Utilize your communications staff to capture the information older employees know and share it across the company through all mediums.

2. Spark cross-generational innovation. Each generation has its own perspective on products and services. Cross-pollinate ideas by utilizing the diversity in the workplace, and develop innovative products and services.

3. Provide fitness opportunities on-site. Today's 60 is the new 40! The older generations today are much more active and love to exercise. Set up a gym in your building or create a company discount program with a local gym nearby so that exercise, health, and wellness for your older employees are only a few steps away.

4. Revisit and assess your pension plans. Many financial incentives associated with pensions actually encourage older workers to leave the workforce. So with the current trend by older employees to keep working, make sure pensions and incentives keep them happy.

5. Ensure flexible family-leave opportunities. Many older workers still have parents who are living but require care. Stay on top of regulated FMLA requirements and become a leader in this area as a positive recruitment strategy.

6. Give genuine feedback and appreciation. There is no age limit when it comes to feeling valued. Make sure recognition programs are dignified and respectful across generations, and always take time to acknowledge everyone’s contributions. Research shows older workers are more motivated to exceed job expectations than younger workers.

7. Keep health care benefits current and flexible. Vision and hearing problems are more likely to occur in older employees, so keep benefit plans relevant and useful. Try to negotiate annual on-site eye and ear examinations from your provider so that workers don’t have to take off from work.

8. Don’t forget learning and development programs. Older employees may not necessarily be looking to get ahead career-wise, but they still want to learn to increase their knowledge base. Make training available for them to learn new technologies and business processes.

9. Be aware that older can mean wiser. Being older by itself doesn’t automatically translate to leadership, but when you have an experienced and valuable older employee who can lead—let him. Aid such employees in contributing their strengths, talents, and leadership skills to others by assigning them special projects and overseeing teams.

10. Present stimulating challenges. Older workers have gone through economic downturns and workplace stresses and know how to ride the storms in life. Draw upon thier maturity by giving them new work situations that will provide job satisfaction.

Incentive columnist Roy Saunderson is author of Giving the Recognition Way and president of the Recognition Management Institute, www.realrecognition.com, which consults companies on improving employee motivation that leads to increased productivity and profit. He can be reached at [email protected] Also, tune in every Tuesday to his radio show, Real Recognition Radio