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Boomers or Bust

Over the next 7 years, baby boomer will begin retiring in large numbers.  Millions of highly skilled, experienced workers will be lost.  The number of workers leaving the workforce will greatly exceed the number of younger replacement workers. 

The Outlook

Over the next 7 years, baby boomer will begin retiring in large numbers.  Millions of highly skilled, experienced workers will be lost.  The number of workers leaving the workforce will greatly exceed the number of younger replacement workers.  While jobs are expected to increase, labor force growth is expected to fall.  Of course, the outlook would be improved if older workers would consider working longer. 

There’s Gold In Them Gray Hairs

Call on the gold mine of gray-haired workers who either want to continue working, or retirees who want to return to work.  Sara Rix, a senior policy adviser for AARP, the nation's largest advocacy group for seniors, said that in one recent poll for the organization, 70 percent of those between ages 45 and 75 said they expected to work beyond their traditional retirement years.

Here are some points of interest from research conducted by Barbara McIntoch, Ph.D, for her report, Supervisor's Guide: Managing Aging Workers:

  • Employers consistently find older workers to be experienced, dependable, responsible, and productive.
  • Corporations, including Grumman Aerospace, Walt Disney World, The Travelers Corporation, A&P, Honeywell Corporations, and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., have already recognized the value of older workers as a resource.
  • The customer base is aging along with the labor force.  Older employees are needed to help redesign products and services for this segment of the market.
  • Older workers are a resource pool that, up to this point, has been largely untapped, and savvy management could benefit both employer and employee.

She further states, "Retention tomorrow is dependent upon management practices TODAY.  Studies have repeatedly shown they are interested in part-time work, and they want interesting, challenging opportunities.  They see themselves as having experiences that they would like to share with younger workers."

Additionally, Social Security laws have changed to allow retirees to earn more money, without being penalized.  Older workers often retire, and later find they have too much time on their hands.  Why not tap this gold mine of talent, knowledge, and mentoring capabilities?  Since many retirees are only interested in part-time employment, and some don't even care about the benefits (a good number of this workforce segment has Medicare and other retirement benefits from previous employment).  The part-time older worker might actually save your organization benefit costs associated with younger workers.

Quality Workers

Information from leading sources, American Business and Older Employees, AARP, and Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows the "Top Qualities of Older Employees include:

  • Loyalty and dedication to the company
  • Commitment to doing quality work
  • Someone you can count on in a crisis
  • Solid experience in job/or industry
  • Get along with coworkers
  • Total sick days per year of older workers is lower than other age groups
  • Older workers take few risks in accident prone situations, therefore they have few accidents

And if you think older workers are adverse to technology, think again.  The fastest growing group of internet users is people over 50.

Make Staying Attractive

Inducing older workers to work longer would be more feasible if phased retirement programs were a routine employee benefit. Such programs would permit workers to make a gradual— rather than an abrupt—transition from work to retirement, and provide them with an opportunity to work longer while working less.

Phased retirement programs are frequently available to state and local government workers and tenured faculty in higher education. But they are rare today in the private sector.  Many employers express interest in phased retirement but only a small minority try to implement it. There are many aspects of phased retirement that must be considered before it is a viable solution for both employers and retirees.  The IRS and Medicare regulations are two important aspects.  Until proposed reforms are implemented, both employees and employers will need to carefully consider the ways in which they continue to employ or rehire previously retired workers. 

To expand the reach of phased retirement programs will require a 180 degree shift in traditional benefits thinking. Traditionally, benefits packages have been designed to ease older workers out of the workforce. However, phased retirement programs facilitate a gradual transition to full retirement through adjusted work hours and responsibilities.  To address the impending workforce voidFind Article, the necessary shift in benefits thinking must begin now.

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Kennette Reed is the principal consultant with Kennette Reed & Associates.  Her firm provides nationwide customer and staff retention, performance improvement, and executive coaching solutions. For more info, visit the company website , email or phone 510-352-2121.


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