Older workers more reliable, according to study

08 - 08 - 2013

Older workers are more consistent at work than their younger counterparts, according to a study carried out by from Berlin's Max Planck Institute for Human Development.

A series of tests were carried out on individuals aged 20-31 and 65-80 to examine whether age has an effect on the variability of people’s cognitive performance at work. The tests found that age does impact on how consistent people are at work, with more senior workers showing less variation.

Over 200 people were given 12 different tasks to test their perceptual speed, episodic memory and working memory. These tests were repeated over 100 days. The findings showed that the performance of participants aged 65-80 were less varied from day to day than the performance of participants aged 20-31.

It is thought that older workers are more consistent because they are more likely to have a balanced routine and stable mood. Their performance may also show less variation due to years of experience in their line of work.

Dr Florian Schmiedek, who led the study, said: ‘Further analyses indicate that the older adults' higher consistency is due to learned strategies to solve the task, a constantly high motivation level, as well as a balanced daily routine and stable mood."

His colleague Professor Axel Börsch-Supan also commented: ‘One of our studies in the car production industry has shown that serious errors that are expensive to resolve are much less likely to be committed by older staff members than by their younger colleagues.

‘Likewise, in other branches of industry that we have studied, one does not observe higher productivity among the younger relative to the older workers.
‘On balance, older employees' productivity and reliability is higher than that of their younger colleagues,’ he added.

The findings, which are published in the journal Psychological Science, add to the ongoing debate about the role of older people in the workplace.

Currently, one in six workers is aged over 65 and almost one third of people working beyond state pension age are self-employed.







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