Societal interest in enabling older workers to prolong their working life has increased in recent years due to demographic change. Managers have a key role in extending working life among employees, because they control the organisation, work environment and potential measures enabling older workers to extend their working life.
To examine managers' attitudes to their older workers.
A cross-sectional study based on a questionnaire answered by 905 managers working in different municipal departments in Sweden.
Managers' attitude to their older workers' retirement time appeared to be associated with their own retirement planning. Managers who themselves wanted to work beyond 66 years considered it more important to keep older workers beyond that age than managers planning to retire at 66. The managers reported that older people were more careful, possessed experiences, skills and life knowledge that were useful in the workplace and helped guide new employees and younger employees. On the other hand, the majority of managers agreed with the stereotypical claim that older people are slower, resistant to change, less well educated and hostile to technology.
The study stated that the managers' attitude to their own retirement planning affected their attitude to the retirement age for their older employees. This is important to consider in the debate of delayed retirement, and to perform activities and incentives in the society to change those attitudes if more people should get the possibility to an extended working life. Additional, almost 50% of the managers surveyed recognised possible measures for adapting work tasks to suit their ageing employees. However, only 5% of managers reported the existence of organisational measures targeted at promoting a sustainable work situation for older employees in their municipal department. The managers were interested in retaining older employees mainly if those older employees had some specific skills that were needed by the department, and not in general.