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HR professionals' views on work motivation and retention of older workers: a focus group study

Rita Claes (Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)
Mieke Heymans (Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 28 March 2008




This paper aims to explore the views of human resource (HR) professionals on work motivation and retention of older workers. Furthermore, it seeks to generate qualitative data to inspire measures for future survey research.


The study adopts a qualitative approach, using focus groups. A total of 15 participants were purposefully selected from different organisational settings (e.g. private and public organisations, various sectors, various organisational sizes, HR departments and HR consultants) and from different areas of HR practice (e.g. recruitment, selection, training, evaluation, diversity management, industrial relations). Several procedures are applied to carry out a rigorous qualitative analysis (i.e. interview guide, video recording and field notes, prompt transcripts, double coding, direct quotes and rich data slices when presenting findings).


The paper reveals that focus groups generate rich interaction and their content analysis results in five topics: definition of older workers, diversity amongst older workers, work motivation of older workers, retention policy and practices, and contexts of work motivation and organisation retention policy/practices.

Research limitations/implications

Three focus groups with HR professionals give just a glance of the intended retention practices. Broader qualitative and quantitative research with HR professionals and older workers is needed, preferably carried out by an international and multidisciplinary team.

Practical implications

The paper provides preliminary advice to HR professionals as to which practices aim at retention of older workers, based on insights in theories on work motivation.


The study takes place within Belgium where far‐reaching societal reform is still needed to promote employment of older workers and to move away from the early‐retirement culture. The paper confronts the wealth of work motivation theories and the plethora of HR practices with HR professionals being challenged to retain older workers and to keep them motivated.



Claes, R. and Heymans, M. (2008), "HR professionals' views on work motivation and retention of older workers: a focus group study", Career Development International, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 95-111.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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