Work and Aging: Psychological-Organizational Science Contributions to the Management of an Aging and Age-Diverse Workforce

March 14, 2008

This event was co-sponsored by FABBS and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

work_and_aging1.jpgOn March 14, 2008, FABBS, along with the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, hosted a Science Forum in the Columbus Club of Union Station. The forum addressed the important role of industrial-organizational psychology research with regard to the management of an aging and age-diverse workforce.

The U.S. workforce is growing older and becoming increasingly age-diverse. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the workforce segment slated for the greatest growth over the next decade is that of persons 55 years or older. According to the DOL projections, as the baby boomer generation ages, over 20 percent of the total civilian labor force in 2014 will be comprised of persons 55 years of age or older.

This “graying” of the U.S. workforce and spot shortages of young talent pose numerous immediate and long-term challenges for effective human resource management in public, private, and military organizations. New work design and incentive systems are needed to promote learning, skill development, behavior change, and to increase organizational capacity for the development of dynamic work role adjustment strategies to address increasing diversity in worker needs and competencies. The forum was successful in addressing some of these issues.

The morning session of the forum was comprised of four members of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology who presented their specific research on the topic. Ruth Kanfer (Georgia Institute of Technology) started the event by offering an overview of current trends in the workplace and the changing roles of both younger and older workers. She highlighted specific motivational, developmental and behavioral changes management can make to retain and engage older workers. Jeanette N. Cleveland (Pennsylvania State University) discussed human resources practices including attraction, selection, evaluation, and retention of an age-diverse workforce. She further commented that organizations should focus on human resource practices that motivate and retain current (older) employees. Elissa L. Perry (Teachers College, Columbia University) spoke to the issue of inter-generational differences in the workforce, with attention paid to work-groups and teams. However, she observed that while not negatively affecting group performance, age-diversity does appear to impact employee turnover and absenteeism within such groups. Janet Barnes-Farrell (University of Connecticut) offered insight into how to best manage transitions in work roles and into retirement. Specific attention was paid to the often misguided attitudes and perceptions of organizations and employees toward older workers. Kurt Kraiger (Colorado State University), the incoming President-Elect of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, served as moderator.


The afternoon session also focused on Work and Aging, but from the perspective of federal and private agencies. Deborah Russell (AARP) gave an overview of the status of the aging workforce from the perspective of an association and offered real world examples where business practices have been put into place to encourage and support an aging workforce. Amber Story (National Science Foundation) and Jonathan W. King (National Institute on Aging) highlighted current areas of research dealing with the aging workforce and, more importantly, noted areas where additional research is needed.

The audience was comprised of representatives from government agencies, private organizations, and universities including the U.S. Government Accountability Office, FAA, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, Society for Human Resource Management, Human Resources Research Organization, National Council on Aging, University of Maryland, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of North Carolina. This group provided a lively, informative, and intimate discussion period after each presentation.


Download copies of PowerPoint presentations and other materials from this event.

kanfer_thumb.gifRuth Kanfer (Georgia Institute of Technology)
The World of Work in the 21st Century: Older Workers, New Work Roles, and Age-Diverse Workplaces

Talk Summary

cleveland_thumb.gifJeanette N. Cleveland (Pennsylvania State University)
Age Diversity and Human Resources Practices

Talk Summary

perry-thumb.gifElissa L. Perry (Teachers College, Columbia University)
Inter-Generational and Age Differences at Work

Talk Summary

barnes-farrell-thumb.gifJanet Barnes-Farrell (University of Connecticut)
Managing Work Role Transitions, Knowledge Transfer, and Retirement

Talk Summary

Deborah Russell (AARP)
Tapping the Vast Human Capital of Older Workers

Amber Story (National Science Foundation)
Funding Opportunities at the NSF

Jonathan King (National Institute on Aging)
NIA Perspectives and Opportunities on Work and Aging

work_and_aging-agenda.gifAgenda work_and_aging-speaker_bios.gifSpeaker Biographies
Press Release from SIOP.gifSIOP Press Release work_and_aging-invite.gifInvitation



Members from the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology conduct cutting-edge research in a number of areas related to the topics covered in this science forum. Research to date by more than 60 SIOP members includes work on the influence of age and age-sensitive variables on job search and employment success, personnel selection decision making, training and development, work motivation and attitudes, job performance, absenteeism, intergenerational communication and conflict, job stress, worker well-being, and retirement transitions.

A sampling of research by SIOP members on these issues is provided in this compendium. Contact information for these researchers is provided at the end as well.

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FABBS changed its name from the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences (FBPCS) in 2009.