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Undervaluing Older Workers Today Could Harm Associations in the Future

ASSOCIATIONS NOW, March/April 2014 Brain Power

By: Kristin Clarke

Summary: The looming generational shift in the American workforce has been a chief concern for associations for some time, however they can't lose focus on the importance of their veteran staff and what they mean to the continued success of the organization.

AARP Chief Operating Officer Jo Ann Jenkins has a warning for associations: "Employers that undervalue older workers and the importance of a multi­generational workforce are reckoning with problems like managing the 'brain drain' of retiring workers while not capitalizing on the skills, experience, and talents of older workers who will remain in the workforce."

Jenkins says associations that commit to "leverage new technologies and work practices [that] recruit and retain [diverse] workers … have great opportunities to build on their organizational productivity, compete, and grow."

She offers as examples technologies that enhance professional communication and collaboration regardless of where or when employees work, saying that preparation for productive future workforces requires managers "to overcome outdated preconceived notions."

Chief among these? Fear of teleworking, as well as myths about older workers' reluctance or ability to learn new skills or innovative technologies.

"In the next five years, we'll largely be more comfortable with these changes in a way that allows employers to fully leverage the skills of all their workers, regardless of where they are sitting," Jenkins says.

She anticipates an altered role for associations in this emerging reality, whereby they "lead by example while also creating a community of practice for their members by disseminating promising practices."

AARP, for its part, has been prepping its millions of members by "recognizing best-in-class workplace practices and policies, highlighting employers of choice, funding organizations [that] provide services to older adults, and connecting people to trusted resources, programs, and peer networks," says Jenkins.

Contributed by Kristin Clarke, a business journalist and writer for ASAE. Email:

Learn More

Jo Ann Jenkins will be the Opening General Session speaker at the 2014 ASAE Finance, HR, & Business Operations Conference May 28–29 in Washington, DC. For more information or to register, visit

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