Training supervisors can improve attitudes towards older employees

Peer group training strengthened the expertise of supervisors in age management and positive attitudes towards older employees. Better age management also strengthened the supervisors’ work motivation and coping at work.
kuvituskuva: esihenkilöitä valmennuksessa
Henkilökuva: Mervi Ruokolainen
Mervi Ruokolainen

Finnish Institute of Occupational Health media release, 9 June 2023

Skilled age management helps to retain experienced employees at workplaces. Throughout the 2000s, attention has been paid to supporting the work ability of older employees in Finland. However, there is no prior research data on impactful measures to strengthen supervisors’ age management skills. The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s project “Immediate supervisor and working career in an ageing work life environment” addressed the development of age management and shaking up age-related attitudes in work life. 

“Workplace practices and operating principles alone are not sufficient to support older employees,” says Specialist Researcher Mervi Ruokolainen.

“We need supervisors who want and can support the work ability and working career of older employees. 

Taking part in the training motivated the supervisors in their work 

The research project developed the resource-based “Adopt experience in the work community” group training and examined its impacts in workplaces in different sectors through a field trial. The training included jointly considering supervisors’ skills in encountering and supporting older employees. 

“We wanted to dare the supervisors taking part in the training to consider their personal age-related attitudes and their significance in supervisory work at the workplaces,” Ruokolainen says. 

The training strengthened the age management expertise of the participants and positive attitudes towards older employees. Moreover, the training promoted the supervisors’ motivation and well-being at work. These factors are likely to contribute over the long term both to the supervisors’ willingness to apply for and continue in supervisory positions and the quality and duration of employees’ working careers. 

In particular, the training benefitted supervisors whose workplaces had age management practices that did not consider the situations and needs of employees of different ages. In addition, the benefits were higher for supervisors in the private sector and supervisors with less education.  

“I believe that participating in the training lowers the supervisors’ threshold for hiring older employees for private-sector workplaces as well, Ruokolainen adds.  

Free-of-charge group training for workplaces 

Workplaces can now adopt free-of-charge group training. The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health website includes the coach and participant materials prepared in the research project; they work well in classroom and online training. 

“You should have supervisors with diverse experience and professional backgrounds in the training. This way, the group discussions give rise to diverse considerations and points of view,” Ruokolainen says. 

Research project: Immediate supervisor and working career in an ageing work life environment 

  • The research project developed peer group training for supervisors that strengthens competence in age management. The study also reviewed the impacts of the training on supervisors’ and their employees’ motivation and well-being at work.  
  • The impacts of the training were tested in a randomized controlled field trial at 10 Finnish workplaces. 
  • The study received funding from the Finnish Work Environment Fund, the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and the workplaces 

Further information

  • Mervi Ruokolainen, Specialist Researcher, the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, mervi.ruokolainen [at] (mervi[dot]ruokolainen[at]ttl[dot]fi) +358 50 522 3203 

See also 

Share content on social media!