Older workers – How to utilise older workers’ resources in business?

The amount of older persons in the total population will increase significantly in the coming decades in Europe. There are many explaining factors to this development i.a. fertility rates among women has decreased, life expectancy of individuals has risen and a greater proportion of the post-war baby-boom generation is retiring. (Eurostat 2016.) This development causes that competition of skilful employees is greater between organisations in the near future when the workforce is shrinking. It means challenges for organisations to attract new employees but at the same retain their current ageing employees. HR-professionals need to find solutions to utilise resources of their older workers and find the ways to keep them longer in their service even though advanced age workers may be perceived more as a problem than as a resource for business.

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First, this essay will give insights to following concepts: older worker, old age and different definitions of age which are important to understand when concentrating on advanced age of workers. Second, elements of attitudes in work environment are presented. After that the essay concentrates to main ideas about older age workersage of workers as a problem or as a resource in business. Third, it will be showed how organisations can utilise older workers’ resources and finally, conclusions will follow.

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Motives and the “Big three”

Motives are internal states that arouse and direct our behaviour toward specific objects or goals. Motive can be caused by deficit, a lack of something (e.g. hunger -> food). They differ on intensity depending on person’s circumstances and are often based on needs, states of tension within a person. When the need is satisfied, tension is reduced. Motives cause people to perceive, think and act in the ways that satisfy the needs and people are not always aware of them.

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Henry Murray (1938) thought that “a need refers to a potentiality or readiness to respond in a certain way under certain given circumstances”. Needs organise perception, guiding us to ‘see’ what we want (need) to see. For example if a person has not eaten, he has a need for food. The motive behind this need is hunger. In this point, an individual can have thoughts and fantasies about food (hamburgers, pizzas ice creams, just a mention a few :) ). Our behaviour guide us to satisfy the need we are going trough at the moment. When we are feeling hungry we might go to store, buy food, cook it and eat it.

Research of motives have concentrated on a small set of motives. These are need for achievement, power and intimacy which are described to be the most important motives for human behaviour, “Big three”.

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Attention – a limited resource?

Attention

Attention can be defined as a concentration of mental activity that allows you to take in limited portion of information available both of your sensory world and memory. Attention work as a gatekeeper. If certain information do not get attention, it has no existence in your cognitive system. This emphasises the view of attention as a limited resource.

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Attention tasks

The fact that attention is divided, explains why attention might be seen as a limited resource. In divided-attention task person is trying to pay attention to two kinds of simultaneous messages at the same time and tries to respond to these messages appropriately (for example teacher’s lecture and nearby conversation). In both tasks accuracy suffer. When tasks involve movement, speed can lower down (e.g. speaking in a phone when walking -> walking will get slower).

If person is multitasking, he is trying to concentrate on two tasks at the same time. It restricts the limits of attention and working and long-term memory. For example, when a person is driving a car and speaks on a phone (even when with hands-free), attention what happens in visual field is reduced.

Selective-attention task allows people to to pay attention to certain kinds of information, while ignoring other ongoing information. This makes our everyday life a bit easier. Selective attention also emphasise, that attention is seen as a limited resource. There are four kind of selective-attention tasks that clarify in which ways our attention is limited and selective. These are dichotic listening, the Stroop effect, visual search and saccadic eye movement. Next I am going to present these and show, how they support the fact that attention is limited.

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