Why Your Company Can’t Afford to Ignore Older Workers

Discover helpful tips for engaging and motivating an older workforce like offering flexible work schedules or pairing them with new hires.

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Why Your Company Can’t Afford to Ignore Older Workers

Did you know that older employees are one of the fastest growing populations in the workforce? The United States Census Bureau estimates that by 2030, one out of every 5 people in the United States will be over the age of 65. For organizations looking to retain a skilled and knowledgeable team, this means you can’t afford to overlook older workers.

Many people are choosing to work past the traditional retirement age. Some employees enjoy the social interaction they have with coworkers. While others continue working for economic reasons.

Top reasons people continue working past retirement:

  • Baby boomers mention declining pensions, the uncertainty of social security, and worrying about possibly outliving their retirement funds.
  • Gen Xers have a heavy debt load, are still raising children, and are trying to save for retirement.

What’s more, both generations may even have aging parents they are taking care of to add to their financial burden.

Why older workers make good employees

There are many benefits to attracting and retaining an older workforce at your business. Older workers bring years of experience and knowledge with them, plus offer additional benefits such as:

  • Higher employee engagement
  • Strong work ethic
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Great people management skills
  • Less likely to call in sick
  • More likely to show up to work on time
  • Higher retention rate due to lower turnover

One common misconception is that older workers use up more benefits. However, while they may have higher healthcare costs, most members of these older generations are way past the age of requiring maternity leave.

Who is considered an older worker?

There is no clear-cut definition of what makes someone an older worker. A few decades ago that answer might have been anyone over the age of 40. But with people living longer and working longer, you might want to use 55 and older when referring to an aging workforce.

There are currently around 71.6 million baby boomers in the U.S. This population segment refers to anyone born between 1946 and 1964, making them the oldest generation in the workforce. Since boomers are currently 58 to 76 years old, which means they are all at or nearing retirement age.

Don’t forget about Generation X, people who were born between 1965 and 1980. There are about 65.2 million members of Gen X in the U.S., and everyone in this population segment is currently 42 to 57 years old. Gen X has already started retirement planning and may even be thinking about taking early retirement.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on changes in the U.S. workforce projected for the decade between 2020 and 2030. Among people aged 16-24, the labor force will shrink by 7.5%. In contrast, the labor force of those 75 and older will increase by 96.5% during the same time period.

What this means for your company is that there are plenty of older workers looking for their next career opportunity.

Tips for engaging older employees

There are many myths and misconceptions that older workers are expensive, have outdated skills, or use up too many health benefits. However, there are actually many upsides to having experienced talent in the workplace.

What can you and your HR team do to help support an aging workforce? Read on for a few tips on how to engage, motivate, and manage older employees.

1. Offer flexible work schedules

Your older workers may not want to continue working 40+ hours per week. A recent Harris Poll mentioned that 58% of older employees wished their organization offered options to help them ease into retirement. One workaround for this potential problem is offering flexible work schedules.

A few options include:

  • Approving work from home and/or hybrid work options
  • Flexibility to work a reduced schedule with either a reduced number of hours per day or fewer days per week
  • Hiring retirees for short-term and/or seasonal positions
  • Job sharing where two or more employees share the same job

Flexible scheduling options provide your employees with a positive work-life balance that helps keep them motivated and productive. A reduced work schedule is also a successful way to help your older workers make the transition to full retirement.

58% of older employees wished their organization offered options to help them ease into retirement. One workaround for this potential problem is offering flexible work schedules.

2. Provide training opportunities

There is a bias against older workers that they aren’t up to date with current technology and are unwilling to change. One of the cliches cited about working with older employees is that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

But many workers, both young and old, are eager to master new software and technology. You just need to give them the opportunity to update their skills through self-paced training courses, online webinars, or hands-on workshops. Training opportunities are a great way to show support for your older employees.

3. Open the lines of communication

Older workers want acknowledgment for their hard work yet sometimes feel like they are invisible at work. A University of Michigan national poll on healthy aging reported that among adults between 50 and 80 years old, 82% reported regularly experiencing everyday ageism.

Older workers often prefer face-to-face meetings to impersonal emails. Periodic check-ins, without micromanaging, let your seasoned team members know what’s expected of them. Clearly spell out their duties, what they need to do, and how you will measure success. Keeping the lines of communication open is the perfect opportunity to help build internal relationships and is sensible advice for any organization.

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4. Create a mentorship program

A major bonus of older workers is their many years of experience. One way to tap into their skills and knowledge is through coaching and teaching opportunities. A CNBC/Survey Monkey workplace happiness survey reported that 9 out of 10 workers that have a mentor are satisfied with their job.

Create an in-house program where you pair older employees with incoming new hires or seasonal interns. This workplace mentorship gives older workers a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment as they share their knowledge with the new generation of talent joining your team.

Become an age-friendly employer

Age discrimination, i.e. ageism, is not only bad for business, but it’s also illegal. Make sure hiring older workers is part of your diversity and inclusion strategy. This will let you become the employer known for its age-friendly hiring practices.

Older workers are a great asset to your organization and bring value to your team. Take steps to accommodate the aging employee. This is a win-win for both your staff and your business.

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