Take a look at your demographic data. What does it tell you about the spread of employees? Is there a concentration at each end of the spectrum? We can reasonably expect a brisk turnover of our younger staff, taking on opportunities in the short term to gain experience and extra cash. At the other end, do you have a number of loyal, long-serving members of the team who have been in the business for a number of years?

How much do you know about their aspirations and dreams?

Older employees have a huge amount to offer. They know the business and its customers, the product lines, and the way work is done. They have many more years in the workplace ahead of them and may be interested in taking a new leap forward during this time. So how do we help them to really make the most of these and continue to do work that they enjoy?

Most of us fell into our careers rather than chose them. We make our way and discover how to do the role we’re in well, but without the self-knowledge on what makes us tick and where our strengths are, we might lose out on progressing to other roles. Does this ring a bell? Perhaps there are people on your team that have more to give, know the business inside out, and just need a little time and focus on them so they can explore what’s next and line that up with the opportunities your company provides.

Many people have this knowledge gap. Without clarity about who they are, it’s hard for them to have the confidence and motivation to seek out the next level of opportunity in your company. Imagine the productivity you could unleash if this community were mobilized and re-energized with some gentle attention?

Here’s how: Have a career conversation.

Here are four simple questions that can transform the careers of your valuable, experienced older in-store sales staff:

  1. How do you measure success and happiness in your work?
  2. What do you see as your best strengths and skills? (Share what you see of them here, too!)
  3. What do you think you would most like to do in the coming years?
  4. How can I support you to help you reach your goals?

Taking time to have this kind of conversation doesn’t need to take long. It makes a wonderful team day activity. Remember, your employees own their careers; your job is to help them to make the most of the opportunities in the business and to help them discover how their unique skills and interests could find a home in new opportunities across the company.

They’ll thank you for it.

The Career Equation by Erica Sosna is published by Open University Press and is available on Amazon.com.