The demographic trend is no secret: the populations of the United States and other major industrial countries are getting older, and faster. That means workforces are aging too. Companies nationwide are facing a looming exodus of retiring employees. The statistics are eye-opening:
Combine these statistics with the growing skills shortage—Department of Labor research shows that employers couldn’t find enough talent in 2018 to fill 6 million open jobs—and you have a perfect talent storm. Some forward-thinking organizations are recognizing the benefits that older workers bring to the workforce and are navigating these choppy waters by exploring flexible career options and new career paths for mature workers.
Hiring mature workers makes good business sense for many companies. These workers strengthen diversity and demonstrate loyalty to the firm, they are emotionally resilient, and they display a strong work ethic and desire to contribute. Many people will face a financial need to continue working past normal retirement age and are motivated to stay engaged and productive. And companies can more effectively plan for the transfer of organization-specific knowledge by hiring and retaining mature workers, who can serve as mentors to less-experienced employees. A true win-win and excellent model for the increasingly “blended” workforce that exists today.
Unfortunately, many organizations have had a short-term mindset and lack of urgency in assessing and planning for an aging workforce. Employers need to consider what will happen when a significant portion of their employees opt for retirement. Several workforce planning strategies are key to develop an effective game plan:
The concern about the drain of human capital and organizational knowledge is real and will only grow over the coming years. Companies are beginning to recognize that being “age smart” is just a good business practice, and that hiring mature workers is a sound investment which contributes to the overall well-being of the organization.
For a glimpse into the future, look at the “Age Smart Employer Award” program, a project of Columbia University’s Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center at the Mailman School of Public Health. Now in its fourth year, the program calls attention to the specific policies and practices that employers are using to recruit, engage and retrain workforces of all ages, including older workers. The award-winning companies are demonstrating that a blended, multi-generational workforce, leveraging the many contributions of mature workers, is truly the ticket to superior organization culture and performance.
Vice President, Senior Executive Services