Have you ever heard of it? I hadn’t either until I read C. J. Crawford’s 2011 article “Workforce Transformation Issues: Can We Enable Workers To Acquire Adequate Skills And Knowledge Necessary To Succeed In A Multi-Generational Workforce Environment?” (see References below). In the article, Crawford observes that one of two hypotheses is commonly used to interpret the relevance of the older worker in business. The first is that “the prime group of employees associated with the highest levels of labor productivity varies between 30 and 50 years of age” (p. 85). In other words, if you are a worker over fifty years of age, you can pretty much be placed in the “low productivity” heap. The second hypothesis is the “Horndal Effect,” which takes its name from a Swedish steel plant. Here’s the story: During the period 1927 and 1952, Horndal’s workforce aged—but not to the detriment of the plant’s profitability. In fact, productivity actually rose 2.5 percent. Hence, the “Horndal Effect” has become a way of referring to the experience and dedication that the older worker offers the company (p. 85).
In the article, Crawford tests this second hypothesis through a review of relevant studies of worker productivity from a variety of generations. I won’t bore you with the details. Let it suffice to say that Crawford argues that age should be considered part of the diversity of the organization. As such, the characteristics of each generation–young, middle, and older– should be studied, accommodated when possible, and certainly cultivated when of value to the organization.
For example, Crawford references the innovative nature of the Millennials, who can be mentored to become “game changers” for the organization. In the same way, Crawford cautions against dismissing the older worker, especially the Baby Boomer. Citing a Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies study, Crawford observes that “three out of five workers in their fifties and sixties plan on working beyond the traditional retirement age of sixty five” (p. 88). Therefore, it is vitally important that employers consider the training needs of the older worker as well as workers from across the generations when establishing training programs.
Crawford, C. J. (2011). Workforce Transformation Issues: Can We Enable Workers To Acquire Adequate Skills And Knowledge Necessary To Succeed In A Multi-Generational Workforce Environment?. Proceedings Of The Northeast Business & Economics Association, 84-88.