Purpose of the Study Demographic, economic, political, and technological transformations - including an unprecedented older workforce - are challenging outdated human resource logics and practices. Rising numbers of retirement-eligible Boomers portend a loss of talent, skills, and local knowledge. We investigate organizational responses to this challenge - institutional work disrupting age-graded mindsets and policies. Design and Methods We focus on innovative U.S. organizations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region in the state of Minnesota, a hub for businesses and nonprofits, conducting in-depth interviews with informants from a purposive sample of 23 for-profit, nonprofit, and government organizations. Results Drawing on an organizational change theoretical approach, we find organizations are leading change by developing universal policies and practices, not ones intentionally geared to older workers. Both their narratives and strategies - opportunities for greater employee flexibility, training, and scaling back time commitments - suggest deliberate disrupting of established age-graded logics, replacing them with new logics valuing older workers and age-neutral approaches. Organizations in the different sectors studied are fashioning uniform policies regardless of age, exhibiting a parallel reluctance to delineate special policies for older workers. Implications Developing new organizational logics and practices valuing, investing in, and retaining older workers is key 21st century business challenges. The flexibility, training, and alternative pathways offered by the innovative organizations we studied point to fruitful possibilities for large-scale replacement of outdated age-biased templates of work, careers, and retirement.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs at the University of Minnesota, as well as with funds from the McKnight Foundation for the first author’s Presidential Chair. It was also supported by the Minnesota Population Center through an NICHD grant (#R24HD041023). The Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences provided the first author with the important time and space to complete the writing. We wish to thank those we interviewed and Jane Peterson for her assistance.
- Institutional logics
- Older workers
- Organizational change