Mature workers—generally defined as workers over age 50 to 55—have experience and skills developed and sharpened from many years of being employed. Retaining talented mature workers—and recruiting new ones—is simply good business for most organizations. A survey conducted in 2013 by AARP discovered that more than a quarter of U.S. adults ages 45 to 74 want to work part time for the enjoyment of it, with nearly as many for the income.
The first wave of 76 million Baby Boomers, representing 28 percent of the American population, began turning 65 in 2011. As the last of the Boomers reach retirement eligibility, the possible loss of this talent will outnumber their replacements. They will live longer than previous generations. This trend will affect an organization’s return on investment (ROI).
The important question is, are employers willing to truly welcome seniors into their workplace? A key success factor for the acceptance of this work group by other employees, especially the younger ones, is the elimination of ageism. Jim McGinley of Social Venture Partners states, “We’re trying to get society to understand that people over 50 are an asset, not a liability.”
According to AARP, these are the three most pervasive and damaging myths about older workers:
- They are the largest group using medical benefits and increase medical insurance premiums. However, they use these benefits less than parents of young children.
- They have a high absentee rate, when in fact their attendance rate is excellent. Seniors rarely miss work, except for illness.
- They are not capable of learning new techniques and technologies. Yet the ability to learn is not a function of age, as evidenced by the growing number of older people returning to the campus.
Advantages for Organizations
Retaining and expanding mature workers’ intellectual capital needs to be established as a strong priority. Older employees will continue to be a valued resource, and new senior hires will enrich organizations. What are the advantages of using this talent pool? Positive qualities include:
- loyalty, reliability, stability, and work ethic
- high job-related skills and expertise, and diverse work and life experiences
- established working relationships with clients who may also be aging
- an understanding of the way things get done in an organization, such as internal work flows, informal work relationships, and cultural characteristics
- a willingness and ability to provide support and guidance
- high motivation to attend training programs for updating work capabilities
- developed networks of professional and marketing contacts.
Recruit and Hire Older Workers
One way to reach older workers is by using talent recruitment agencies that focus on senior candidates, such as Federal One-Stop Career Centers, community colleges in the Plus 50 Encore Completion Program, AARP’s Life Reimagined for Work website or LinkedIn group, SeniorJobBank.org, and the American Society of Aging Career Advantage program.
Organizations need to market themselves as “age-friendly” workplaces by offering flexibility in work schedules, expressing value in seniors’ expertise and experience, and welcoming their ability to assess problems and provide solutions. A number of workplaces are recruiting and hiring mature workers, including Brook Brothers and Metro Optics, who were awarded the 2016 Age Smart Employer Award by Columbia University’s Age Boom Academy.
Vision for the Future Workforce
Economic and demographic forces are prompting employers to seriously assess how and where they can continue to employ their mature workers and hire new ones. AARP provides a strategy with its Phased Retirement Project. Phased retirement refers to a broad range of flexible retirement arrangements, both informal practices and formal workplace policies, allowing potential retirees to reduce work hours or move to other responsibilities and projects.
The Boomers are redefining retirement, aging, and old age. Savvy organizations will adapt and adopt their mindsets.