WHEN NO ONE RETIRES

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Before our eyes, the world is undergoing a massive demographic transformation. In many countries, the population is getting old. Very old. Globally, the number of people age 60 and over is projected to double to more than 2 billion by 2050 and those 60 and over will outnumber children under the age of 5. In the United States, about 10,000 people turn 65 each day, and one in five Americans will be 65 or older by 2030. By 2035, Americans of retirement age will eclipse the number of people aged 18 and under for the first time in U.S. history.

The reasons for this age shift are many — medical advances that keep people healthier longerdropping fertility rates, and so on — but the net result is the same: Populations around the world will look very different in the decades ahead.

Some in the public and private sector are already taking note — and sounding the alarm. In his first term as chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, with the Great Recession looming, Ben Bernanke remarked, “in the coming decades, many forces will shape our economy and our society, but in all likelihood no single factor will have as pervasive an effect as the aging of our population.” Back in 2010, Standard & Poor’s predicted that the biggest influence on “the future of national economic health, public finances, and policymaking” will be “the irreversible rate at which the world’s population is aging.”

This societal shift will undoubtedly change work, too: More and more Americans want to work longer — or have to, given that many aren’t saving adequately for retirement. Soon, the workforce will include people from as many as five generations ranging in age from teenagers to 80-somethings.

Are companies prepared? The short answer is “no.” Aging will affect every aspect of business operations — whether it’s talent recruitment, the structure of compensation and benefits, the development of products and services, how innovation is unlocked, how offices and factories are designed, and even how work is structured — but for some reason, the message just hasn’t gotten through. In general, corporate leaders have yet to invest the time and resources necessary to fully grasp the unprecedented ways that aging will change the rules of the game.

What’s more, those who do think about the impacts of an aging population typically see a looming crisis — not an opportunity. They fail to appreciate the potential that older adults present as workers and consumers. The reality, however, is that increasing longevity contributes to global economic growth. Today’s older adults are generally healthier and more active than those of generations past, and they are changing the nature of retirement as they continue to learn, work, and contribute. In the workplace, they provide emotional stability, complex problem-solving skills, nuanced thinking, and institutional know-how. Their talents complement those of younger workers, and their guidance and support enhance performance and intergenerational collaboration. In encore careers, volunteering, and civic and social settings, their experience and problem-solving abilities contribute to society’s well-being.

In the public sector, policy makers are beginning to take action. Efforts are under way in the United States to reimagine communities to enhance “age friendliness,” develop strategies to improve infrastructure, enhance wellness and disease prevention, and design new ways to invest for retirement as traditional income sources like pensions and defined benefit plans dry up. But such efforts are still early stage, and given the slow pace of governmental change they will likely take years to evolve.

Companies, by contrast, are uniquely positioned to change practices and attitudes now. Transformation won’t be easy, but companies that move past today’s preconceptions about older employees and respond and adapt to changing demographics will realize significant dividends, generating new possibilities for financial return and enhancing the lives of their employees and customers. I spent many years in executive management, corporate law, and board service. Based on this experience, along with research conducted with Arielle Burstein, Kevin Proff, and other members of our staff at the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging, I have developed a framework for building a “longevity strategy” that companies can use to create a vibrant multigenerational workforce. Broadly, a longevity strategy should include two key elements: internal-facing activities (hiring, retention, and mining the talents of workers of all ages) and external-facing ones (how your company positions itself and its products and services to customers and stakeholders). In this article, I’ll address the internal activities companies should be engaging in. I’ll discuss the external-facing activities in an article coming tomorrow.

But first, let’s examine why leaders seem to be overlooking the opportunities of an aging population.

THE AGEISM EFFECT

There’s broad consensus that the global population is changing and growing significantly older. There’s also a prevailing opinion that the impacts on society will largely be negative. A Government Accountability Office report warns that older populations will bring slower growth, lower productivity, and increasing dependency on society. A report from the Congressional Budget Office projects that higher entitlement costs associated with an aging population will drive up expenses relative to revenues, increasing the federal deficit. The World Bank foresees fading potential in economies across the globe, warning in 2018 of “headwinds from ageing populations in both advanced and developing economies, expecting decreased labour supply and productivity growth.” Such predictions serve to further entrench the belief that older workers are an expensive drag on society.

What’s at the heart of this gloomy outlook? Economists often refer to what’s known as the dependency ratio: the number of people not typically in the workforce — those younger than 15 and older than 65 — in a population divided by the number of working-age people. This measure assumes that older adults are generally unproductive and can be expected to do little other than consume benefits in their later years. Serious concerns about the so-called “silver tsunami” are justified if this assumption is correct: The prospect of a massive population of sick, disengaged, lonely, needy, and cognitively impaired people is a dark one indeed.

This picture, however, is simply not accurate. While some older adults do suffer from disabling physical and cognitive conditions or are otherwise unable to maintain an active lifestyle, far more are able and inclined to stay in the game longer, disproving assumptions about their prospects for work and productivity. The work of Laura Carstensen and her colleagues at the Stanford Center on Longevity shows that typical 60-something workers today are healthy, experienced, and more likely than younger colleagues to be satisfied with their jobs. They have a strong work ethic and loyalty to their employers. They are motivated, knowledgeable, adept at resolving social dilemmas, and care more about meaningful contributions and less about self-advancement. They are more likely than their younger counterparts to build social cohesion and to share information and organizational values.

Yet the flawed perceptions persist, a byproduct of stubborn and pervasive ageism. Positive attributes of older workers are crowded out by negative stereotypes that infect work settings and devalue older adults in a youth-oriented culture. Older adults regularly find themselves on the losing end of hiring decisions, promotions, and even volunteer opportunities. Research from AARP found that approxi­mately two-thirds of workers ages 45 to 74 said they have seen or experienced age discrimina­tion in the workplace. Of those, a remarkable 92% said age discrimination is very, or somewhat, common. Research for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco backs this up. A study involving 40,000 made-up résumés found compelling evidence that older applicants, especially women, suffer consistent age discrimination. A case in point is IBM, which is currently facing allegations of using improper practices to marginalize and terminate older workers.

There’s more: Deloitte’s 2018 Global Human Capital Trends study found that 20% of business and HR leaders surveyed viewed older workers as a competitive disadvantage and an impediment to the progress of younger workers. The report concludes that “there may be a significant hidden problem of age bias in the workforce today.” It also warns that “Left unaddressed, perceptions that a company’s culture and employment practices suffer from age bias could damage its brand and social capital.”

The negative cultural overlay about aging is reinforced by media and advertising that often portray older adults in clichéd, patronizing ways. A classic example is Life Alert’s ad from the 1980s for its medical alert necklace, immortalizing the phrase “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” Recent ads by E*TRADE and Postmateshave also drawn criticism as ageist. A more subtle, but just as damaging example is the trumpeting of “anti-aging” benefits on beauty products as a marketing tool, suggesting that growing older is, by definition, a negative process.

Some companies are pushing back: In a recent video, T-Mobile’s John Legere took on the topic of ageist stereotypes while promoting a T-Mobile service for adults age 55-plus. He chided competitors for what he called their belittling treatment of older adults in marketing campaigns that emphasize large-size phone buttons and imply that boomers are tech idiots. “Degrading at the highest level,” Legere calls it. “The carriers assume boomers are a bunch of old people stuck in the past who can’t figure out how the internet works. Newsflash, carriers: Boomers invented the internet.”

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Yet for the most part, employers continue to invest far more in young employeesand generally do not train workers over 50. In fact, many companies would rather not think about existence of older workers all. “Today it is socially unacceptable to ignore, ridicule, or stereotype someone based on their gender, race, or sexual orientation,” points out Jo Ann Jenkins, the CEO of AARP. “So why is it still acceptable to do this to people based on their age?”

Over the past decades, companies have recognized the economic and social benefits of women, people of color, and LGBT individuals in the workforce. These priority initiatives must be continued — obviously, we’re not even close to achieving genuine equality in the corporate world; at the same time, the inclusion of older adults in the business diversity matrix is long overdue. Patricia Milligan, senior partner and global leader for Mercer’s Multinational Client Group observes, “[a]t the most respected multinational companies, the single class not represented from a diversity and inclusion perspective is older workers. LGBT, racial and ethnic diversity, women, people with physical disabilities, veterans — you can find an affinity group in a corporation for everything, except an older worker.”

MANAGING A MULTIGENERATIONAL WORKFORCE

How can companies push past stereotypes and other organizational impediments to tap into a thriving and talented population of older workers? A range of best practices have been emerging and some companies are making real progress. Each points to specific changes companies should be considering as they develop their own strategies.

Redefine the workweek. To start, you need to reconsider the out-of-date idea that all employees work Monday through Friday, from 9 to 5, in the same office. The notion that everyone retires completely by age 65 should also be jettisoned. Companies instead should invest in opportunities for creative mentorship, part-time work, flex-hour schedules, and sabbatical programs geared to the abilities and inclinations of older workers. Programs that offer pre-retirement and career transition support, coaching, counseling, and encore career pathways can also make employees more engaged and productive. Many older workers say they are ready to exchange high salaries for flexible schedules and phased retirementsSome companies have already embraced nontraditional work programs for employees, creating a new kind of environment for success. The CVS “Snowbird” program, for example, allows older employees to travel and work seasonally in different CVS pharmacy regions. Home Depot recruits and hires thousands of retired construction workers, making the most of their expertise on the sales floor. The National Institutes of Health, half of whose workforce is over 50, actively recruits at 50-plus job fairs and offers benefits such as flexible schedules, telecommuting, and exercise classes. Steelcase offers workers a phased retirement program with reduced hours. Michelin has rehired retirees to oversee projects, foster community relations, and facilitate employee mentoring. Brooks Brothersconsults with older workers on equipment and process design, and restructures assignments to offer enhanced flexibility for its aging workforce.

Reimagine the workplace. Your company should also be prepared to adjust workspaces to improve ergonomics and make environments more age-friendly for older employees. No one should be distracted from their tasks by pain that can be prevented or eased, and even small changes can improve health, safety, and productivity. Xerox, for example, has an ergonomic training program aimed at reducing musculoskeletal disorders in its aging workforce. BMW and Nissan have implemented changes to their manufacturing lines to accommodate older workers, ranging from barbershop-style chairs and better-designed tools to “cobot” (collaborative robot) partners that manage complicated tasks and lift heavier objects. The good news is that programs that improve the lives of older workers can be equally valuable for younger counterparts.

Mind the mix. Lastly, you need to consider and monitor the age mixes in your departments and teams. Many companies will need to manage as many as five generations of workers in the near future, if they aren’t already. Some pernicious biases can make this difficult. For example, research shows that every generation wants meaningful work — but that each believes everyone else is just in it for the money. Companies should emphasize workers’ shared value. “Companies pursuing Millennial-specific employee engagement strategies are wasting time, focus, and money,” Bruce Pfau, the former vice chair of human resources at KPMG, argues. “They would be far better served to focus on factors that lead all employees to join, stay, and perform at their best.”

By tapping ways that workers of different generations can augment and learn from each other, companies set themselves up for success over the long-term. Young workers can benefit from the mentorship of older colleagues, and a promising workforce resource lies in intergenerational collaboration, combining the energy and speed of youth with the wisdom and experience of age.

PNC Financial Group uses multigenerational teams to help the company compete more effectively in the financial markets through a better understanding of the target audience for products. Pharma giant Pfizer has experimented with a “senior intern” program to reap the benefits of multigenerational collaboration. In the tech world, Airbnb recruited former hotel mogul Chip Conley to provide experienced management perspective to his younger colleagues. Pairing younger and older workers in all phases of product and service innovation and design can create opportunity for professional growth. And facilitating intergenerational relationships, mentoring, training, and teaming mitigate isolation and help break down walls.

To begin this process, start talking to your employees of all ages. And get them to talk with each other about their goals, interests, needs, and worries. Young and old workers share similar anxieties and hopes about work — and also have differences that need to be better understood companywide. Look for opportunities for engagement between generations and places where older and younger workers can support one another through skill development and mentorship. After all, if everyone needs and wants to work, we’re going to have to learn to work together.

To be clear, all of these changes — from flexible hours to team makeup — will require a recalibration of company processes, some of which are deeply ingrained. Leaders must ask, do our current health insurance, sick leave, caregiving, and vacation policies accommodate people who work reduced hours? Do our employee performance-measurement systems appropriately recognize and reward the strengths of older workers? Currently, most companies focus on individual achievement as opposed to team success. This may inadvertently punish older employees who offer other types of value — like mentorship, forging deep relationships with clients and colleagues, and conflict resolution — that are not as easily captured using traditional assessment tools. Here, too, initiatives aimed at older workers can benefit other workers as well. For instance, research suggests that evaluating team performance also tends to boost the careers of employees from low-income backgrounds.

TURNING A CRISIS INTO AN OPPORTUNITY

I’m admittedly bullish about the positive aspects of working longer and believe that company leaders can harness the opportunity of an aging population to gain competitive advantage. But I’m not oblivious to the challenges a longevity strategy poses. We’re talking about initiating a massive culture change for firms — a change that must come from the top.

But ignoring the realities of the demographic shift under way is no longer an option. CEOs and senior executives will need to put the issue front and center with HR leaders, product developers, marketing managers, investors, and many other stakeholders who may not have it on their radar screens. This will take guts and persistence: Leaders must bravely say, “We reject the assumption that people become less tech-savvy as they get older” and “We will fight the impulse to put only our youngest employees on new initiatives.” To genuinely make headway on this long-range issue, companies will have to make tough, and sometimes unpopular, decisions, especially in a world where short-term results and demands dominate leaders’ agendas. But isn’t that what great leaders do?

The business community has a chance to spearhead a broad movement to change culture, create opportunity, and drive growth. In doing so, companies will improve not only mature lives, but lives of all ages, and the prospects of workers for generations to come. This transformative movement to realize the potential of the 21st century’s changing demography is the next big test for corporate leadership.

THE AUTHOR

PAUL IRVING

Paul Irving says he became seriously interested in the issues of aging and longevity almost serendipitously. “When I began my work at the Milken Institute, I fell into a project focused on urban adaptations for an aging population. I realized that this unprecedented demographic shift would change everything — societies, communities, businesses, families, and institutions of all types in incredible ways,” he says. “But understanding, planning, action, and urgency were lacking.”

Good news (mostly) for workers and job hunters over 50

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Getting a job in your 50s or 60s certainly isn’t easy, but new and somewhat surprising employment data suggests that prospects and pay are improving, especially for older job switchers. One big reason? The tightest labor market in nearly two decades, causing some employers to more readily hire older job hunters. Some 6.7 million U.S. jobs went unfilled this spring.

“The tightening labor market is hitting employers and it’s one of the biggest challenges employers will face over the next couple of years,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, head of the ADP Research Institute, a division of the giant payroll processing company, ADP. “Ultimately, age will be less of a factor.”

A recent story on the Human Resource Executive site was called: “Why Older Workers Are Now In Demand.” Who would’ve expected to see that?

Jen Schramm, senior strategic policy adviser at the AARP Public Policy Institute is pleased about the good news for older workers, but tempers her view. “A tight labor market encourages employers and hiring managers to look at candidates they might normally overlook and this can include older applicants,” she said. But, she added, “Even in a strong job market, challenges remain for older job seekers. Government data continues to show that job seekers ages 55 and older face long periods of unemployment and our own research has found that age discrimination continues to be widespread.”

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She’s right. Below are the cheery numbers and hiring news followed by parts of the less-wonderful world facing older job hunters.

The positive data on older job hunters

Some recent uplifting statistics about older workers and older job hunters:

  • The unemployment rate for people 55 and older is now just 3.1%, less than the overall jobless rate of 3.9%.

  • Workers 55 and older are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. labor force.

  • The average duration of unemployment for older job seekers has dropped sharply since 2012 (though still long); it’s down from roughly 50 weeks to 34 weeks for job hunters age 55 to 64 and down from about 62 weeks to 30 weeks for those 65+. In other words, it now typically takes about seven to eight months to find a job if you’re over 55.

  • About 29% of job seekers 55+ are considered long-term unemployed (looking for work for 27 weeks or more); while that’s still high, it’s down dramatically from roughly 45% in 2014.

  • Job growth for people 55 and older is up 4.5%, according to ADP. That’s more than twice as high as the 1.7% job growth for workers overall.

  • Wage growth for job switchers 55 and older is up 6.3%, according to ADP. That’s far higher than the 3% wage growth for workers of all ages. It’s especially strong for older job switchers who are skilled workers in construction and professional services (accountants, lawyers, architects and the like).

The tight labor market isn’t the only reason some employers are hiring older workers. They’re also finding, as research from the National Council on Aging has shown, that these employees have lower absentee and turnover rates than younger workers.

Employers who hire older applicants

Some employers have been especially willing to hire older job applicants.

As Chris Farrell wrote on Next Avenue last fall, packaging and delivery services like UPS UPS, -0.07%   and retailers such as Williams Sonoma WSM, +1.63%   and JC Penney JCP, -0.76%   have been increasingly tapping into their retiree base to meet the Christmas holiday rush. The accounting firm PKF O’Connor Davies, a winner of the 2018 Age Smart Employer Award, makes a point of hiring accountants who’ve been forced to retire from their previous firms at around age 60. More than 250 of its 700 workers are over 50, as Reuters writer Mark Miller has noted.

Read: These are the bad things about early retirement that no one talks about

At CVS Health, CVS, +0.12%   according to HR Executive, roughly 19% of employees are over 50. That’s partly due to its Talent Is Ageless program to recruit and keep workers 50+ for full- and part-time jobs. “Hiring mature workers makes good business sense for our company. These colleagues are highly valued, both because of their skills and experience, but also because they are members of our fastest-growing customer base,” David Casey, vice president of workforce strategies and chief diversity officer at CVS Health told HR Executive.

The downbeat numbers about older workers

And now, a few things that are less peachy for older job applicants and older workers, which likely won’t be too surprising if you’re in one of those camps:

  • Wage growth for all workers 55 and older is just 2.4%, according to ADP, less than the national 3.0% wage growth. In other words, if you’re 55+ and have a job, raises are still pretty puny.

  • Job seekers 55 and older still tend to be out of work substantially longer than younger job seekers — about 34 weeks on average for those 55 to 64 and 30 weeks for those 65+ compared with 15 weeks for job hunters age 20 to 24.

  • Hourly pay for full-time workers starts to decline after 60, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. “Many employers are looking at what they’re paying a 60-year-old and they’re saying, ‘Wait, I can hire two hungry 30-year-olds’ for the same cost,” Donald Klepper-Smith, chief economist at DataCore Partners, an economic research firm, recently told the Boston Globe.

  • And the 3.1% unemployment rate for people over 55 excludes the 1.1 million “long-term discouraged workers” who want a job but haven’t looked for one in the past year, says economist Teresa Ghilarducci, director of the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis. Jennifer Schramm of AARP Public Policy Institute just wrote that discouraged workers ages 65 and older are more likely to say the reason they’re not looking for work “is that employers think they are too old.”

What kinds of jobs are they?

Also, the jobs that older job seekers get aren’t necessarily the best-paying ones. Many workers over 55 “get funneled into lower-paying ‘older person jobs’ — from retail sales clerks to security or school crossing guards to taxi drivers” — according to a 2016 study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

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As San Diego Union-Tribune writers Lori Weisberg and Mike Freeman recently wrote in their “back story” on their piece on excellent report about older workers: “Many workers in their 50s and older told us they are having to take lower-paid jobs or gig work like driving for Uber or Lyft to make ends meet.” And, they noted, “several told us they took sizable cuts in pay, in part, because they found employment outside their field in a lower-paying position.”

Age discrimination: still a big problem

Age discrimination by employers remains a scourge.

When AARP recently surveyed 3,900 people age 45 and older, 61% said they’ve personally seen or experienced age discrimination. Among those who’ve applied for a job in the past two years, 44% were asked for potentially job-losing age-related information such as birth dates and graduation years. 2018 Next Avenue Influencer in Aging Peter Gosselin calls age discrimination “the acceptable bias.” Indeed, a 2018 report by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) starkly said that age discrimination “remains too common and too accepted.”

In certain fields, such as technology, older workers are often shunned or booted out. For evidence, read Gosselin’s superb ProPublica IBM IBM, -1.16%   exposé, “Cutting ‘Old Heads’ at IBM.” A class-action suit against IBM was just filed in federal court saying the company discriminated against former employees based on their age when they were fired.

Advice for older job hunters

Finding work after 50 can be critically important to help make your retirement financially secure, though. As a new report from the National Institute on Retirement Security found, the median retirement account balance for people age 55 to 64 with such accounts is just $88,000. AARP research found that nearly half of people 65+ who were working or looking for work did so for financial reasons.

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If you’re over 50 and looking for a job, Yildirmaz advises being realistic about what you can expect to earn. “Older employees need to change their expectations,” she said. In other words: don’t blithely assume you will earn as much or more in your next job than in your last one.

During her interview with Chris Farrell, EEOC Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic offered two other smart tips for older job applicants: 1) Invest in your skills so that you won’t be denied a job because you aren’t up to speed. 2) Do what you can to show employers you’re still engaged and talented.

One final, if deflating thought: the heartening numbers for older job applicants may not last much longer. Today’s tight job market won’t last. “We’re at the end of a very long recovery,” David Neumark, a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, recently told The San Diego Union Tribune, in its story on older workers.

Richard Eisenberg is the Senior Web Editor of the Money & Security and Work & Purpose channels of Next Avenue and Managing Editor for the site. He is the author of “How to Avoid a Mid-Life Financial Crisis” and has been a personal finance editor at Money, Yahoo, Good Housekeeping, and CBS MoneyWatch. @richeis315

Why Are Companies Turning to Older Workers? Should You?

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Not so long ago, most people worked until the age of 62 or 65 before retiring to fill their days with family, travel and recreation. After decades of demanding work schedules, employees looked forward to a life of leisure. However, while no one was looking, the rules of retirement changed! About one-third of 45- to 65-year-olds now say they plan to work part-time in their golden years – and four percent hope to have a full-time job.

At the same time, employers are starting to shift their views. Some are actively working to keep their most experienced employees in the workplace or they’re recruiting older workers to fill skills gaps. What’s driving the change? When are employees from the 55+ demographic a good fit? What can you do to ensure that your workers have the skills they need to succeed?

Why Hire or Retain the Most Seasoned Employees?

Bouts of unemployment, lingering effects of the 2008 recession, the housing crash, huge student debt and/or providing aid to family members can explain a financial desire (or need) to work beyond a traditional retirement age. Add to that, the reputation of the current generation of older workers, Baby Boomers – born between 1946 and 1964 – as a work-driven generation that worked long hours to establish self-worth, identity and fulfillment. It’s no wonder that this generation is interested in staying employed longer or pursuing an encore career.

But what’s in it for the employers? Quite a bit, it turns out. Retaining and hiring seasoned employees has a myriad of benefits:

  • Preserves institutional knowledge from a wave of experienced workers who are approaching retirement age. Roughly 10,000 Baby Boomers retire each day.

  • Combats a skills shortage that, according to the Department of Labor, left employers unable to find enough talent in 2017 to fill approximately 6 million open jobs.

  • Provides flexibility for the company and workers, matching full-time, part-time and project work with employees most suited to each opportunity.

  • Keeps employers connected to the needs of a key customer base. As David Case, Vice President of Workforce Strategies and Chief Diversity Officer at CVS Health explains on the company’s Talent is Ageless recruitment webpage, “We know that 90 percent of Americans aged 65 and older are using at least one prescription drug a month, and 40 percent use at least five. So as we see the Baby Boomer generation age, having colleagues across the company who can personally relate to these customers and patients is a differentiator for us.”

And for some companies like Starbucks, that recently opened its first café exclusively staffed by people ages 50 and older, hiring a mature workforce is a way to support a community and help boost the quality of life.

When Are Older Workers a Good Fit?

Baby Boomers are living longer and are healthier than previous generations at 65. Since an increasing number of workers are putting off retirement, companies have a ready labor pool. Yet age bias still gets in the way. “Older workers are often branded as burned out and not technically savvy,” says Peter Cappelli, a management professor at the Wharton School in Philadelphia. In fact, he says, “they have lower rates of absenteeism, less turnover, better job performance and adapt well to new technology.

How do you overcome age bias to find mature workers that will fit with your workforce? The short answer … the same way that you find younger workers that fit:

  • Start with your company needs. What work needs to get done? What skills and competencies are required to do the job?

  • Be open about how the work gets done. Does it require a full-time person or is it better suited to two part-time workers? Does the work need to be done in the office or could someone at home provide the same support or service? Is there a permanent need or is this a transitional role?

  • Consider the talent pool you know. Are there current employees or recent retirees that could do the job well? Are they interested? Do they need any skill development to achieve success?

  • Stick to skills and competencies. Resist the urge (and technology) that assumes workers won’t fit because of their age alone. Eliminate recruitment questions that ask, for example, the year someone graduated from college. Instead, use competency management technology to assess candidates’ current skills.

Consider this: an older employee can learn needed skills from a younger counterpart. But a younger person can’t instantly gain life or work experience.

How to Ensure that Older Employees Have the Skills They Need?

Many companies have a reputation of pushing older employees out during layoffs only to hire younger workers to (re)acquire the skills they need. As the labor shortage continues and the pace of change accelerates, this model doesn’t work. It’s more important than ever for employers to ensure that all workers, in all jobs, at all ages are keeping up with the changing skills requirements. Companies need a learning and development plan that supports multiple generations in the workplace, upping the skills of all workers over time.

Be sure your learning plan supports older workers. A recent study found that, across all generations, learners prefer a range of tools and delivery methods. Coaching, mentoring and access to subject matter experts was most appealing to the oldest and youngest generations. They’re looking for guidance from experts who can help them continue to grow their knowledge and skill sets.

Companies committed to their most seasoned employees offer ongoing on-the-job training, including onsite and web-based instructor-led training. Older workers may not have a strong digital background, so check the user interface of your learning management system to make sure the screens are easy to navigate to get to the training they need. Certificates of completion and other recognition can serve to reinforce your learning culture.

Our blended workforce is here to stay, with over-65 workers in the mix for the foreseeable future. Done right, this is a win-win for employees and companies alike.

3 Reasons Your Company Needs a Mentoring Program

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Starting a mentoring program in your business allows you to capitalize on your greatest resource, your employees.

Doing business today requires having low-cost, yet high-quality, solutions. Starting a mentoring program in your business allows you to capitalize on your greatest resource, your employees. Strategically developing their talent contributes to the company's growth, innovation, and bottom line. It shows management's support, interest, and concern for an employee's potential with the company. It demonstrates to employees that management is willing to invest the time and resources necessary to help employees succeed in their careers. In return, employees are more likely to be more productive and loyal to the company.

"Company leadership should embrace, promote and value mentoring programs to realize a return on investment," according to Harvard Business Review writer Anthony K. TJan.

He says that business leaders develop a structured and staged approach to mentoring. For example, new employees should receive a 'buddy' to learn the ropes, but employees with a few years of experience should be matched with a career mentor to help them grow in their position.

1. Shows the Company Cares. The biggest benefit of providing business mentors is having someone the mentee can meet with to ask questions. The mentor can be a sounding board, helping sort out options and giving advice on business matters. The mentee has someone who can offer a sympathetic ear when there is a problem or the mentee just needs to vent.

2. More Engaged Workforce. Companies benefit from mentoring programs because they contribute to the development of a better-trained and engaged workforce. Mentors help mentees learn the ropes at a company, develop relationships across the organization, and identify skills that should be developed or improved upon.

3. High Job Satisfaction. "Mentoring programs play a key role in decreasing employee turnover. A 2013 study, "Career Benefits Associated with Mentoring for Mentors," published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior, discovered people who have the opportunity to serve as mentors experience greater job satisfaction and a higher commitment to their employer." A mentor helps alleviate any job frustration the mentee has through one-on-one training or coaching and providing insights into the corporate culture.

Mentoring programs are a cost-efficient way to get employees engaged and empowered. These programs enable you to develop the talent you already have and increase productivity across the organization.

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Published on March 5, 2015