Baby Boomers are, once again, forging new ground when it comes to jobs and careers. Remaining active and healthy has resulted in decades of bonus years that come with accumulated skills, experience and knowledge — all important to employers. There are no tried-and-true roadmaps from past generations to follow for those wanting to remain in the marketplace or for employers wishing to retain this segment of the labor force.
For aging adults, the transition from “success to significance” can be a win-win for our community when employers consider that this huge demographic shift brings an opportunity to take advantage of an unprecedented human resource jackpot. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2018, 25 percent of the workforce will be 55 and older. So, how are employers thinking about workplace practices and policies given this reality?
An AARP poll revealed 48 percent of companies have not done any strategic planning to analyze the impact of retirement by their Boomer employees on their businesses. A study for AARP by Aon Hewitt titled “A business case for workers age 50+: A look at the value of experience 2015” says HR managers who once assumed older workers could be replaced by those fresh out of school are having to rethink those assumptions due to the rapid growth of the older workforce relative to younger workers.
The report is filled with findings that present the business case for attracting, engaging and retaining workers older than 50 and also addresses age-neutral labor costs.
What do employers need to know about this segment of our workforce? And what are aging workers looking for from employers?
The Center on Aging and Work at Boston College issued a report for employers, “Three things employers need to know about options for continued work or retirement for workers 50+.”
1) Continued work or retirement policies and practices may help manage the loss of institutional knowledge;
2) Certain sizes of organizations have advantages and disadvantages in providing options; and
3) Building top leadership commitment is one of the biggest challenges.
Enough about statistics and reports.
I recently read a story from encore.org about a gentleman who retired from his family’s successful automotive parts manufacturing business.
His small business success left him with a strong commitment to employment practices that put people first.
He also knew small businesses don’t often have access to information linking progressive employment practices to a positive bottom line, and they may lack the resources and knowledge to implement good workplace practices. So he decided to fill this gap in his second half of life by launching an organization to help small and midsize companies create high-performance workplaces through its website, e-newsletters and other resources.
Marriott has made the “Best companies for hourly workers” list for best practices in workplace flexibility, training and development. From surveys and focus groups with hourly associates 50 and older, Marriott learned the vast majority were interested in continuing to learn and grow with the company while finding new ways to do their work. Key elements of Marriott’s “flex options for hourly workers” are:
• Cross-training enables older workers to maximize hours and develop new skills without fully changing jobs. This often leads to job rotations with workers moving to another position, perhaps less physically demanding, for a period of time.
• Work process redesigns pair younger and older associates in a team approach.
• At-home positions for sales or customer service staff attracts workers from both ends of the generational spectrum.
• Down time without pay is offered to staff during slower times in the form of extended breaks, shorter shifts, leaving early or extra days off.
Workers nearing retirement are interested in “bridge policies” and other non-financial practices that provide options for gradual pathways out of the labor force.
For the employers, they also support succession planning and the retention of valued skills and expertise. Examples include flexible work schedules, telecommuting options, training and education opportunities, phased retirement programs, financial and physical wellness programs and bridge jobs that allow employees to transition into other kinds of work.
The good news? We don’t need to reinvent the wheel — there are excellent tools and best practices for workers and employers readily available that can be replicated across sizes and business industries.
An online workforce benchmarking tool is available from the Center on Aging and Workforce at Boston College at virgo.bc.edu/employerbenchmarking/.
And it is worth noting that what is good for aging workers seems to be good for all ages of workers.
B.J. Scott, former executive director of Peak Vista Foundation and former CEO of Peak Vista Community Health Systems, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.