Employers are more challenged than ever to attract and retain knowledgeable and skilled workers. Baby boomers are rapidly retiring and millenials, while abundant, often job shop and hop. So what’s the solution; older workers! Who exactly? It could be anyone over the age of 55.
The mix among age groups in our population continues to tilt towards an older population. Who better to serve the graying population than capable and abundant graying and available elders!
In less than the next 20 years, stats Canada says that one in four Canadians will be over 65, up from one in seven today and one in nine as recent as 2001. The market for older consumers and older workers to serve them is growing, and fast!
While widespread labour shortages are not expected soon, there will be skill shortages in certain occupations and sectors of the economy due to abundant retirements. That loss of knowledge, skills and experience is difficult to replace. It costs more to hire and train an undeveloped person than to reposition an experienced worker.
The Forum of Government Ministers Responsible for Seniors recently prepared a guide to help employers understand older workers and to offers strategies to engage them in order to support a diverse and inclusive workforce of all ages. Here are some abbreviated excerpts:
Why consider older workers?
- The transfer of organizational knowledge, skills and experience to future leaders
- Potentially reducing turnover and costs associated with hiring, training, and orienting new staff; older workers tend to remain with employers for longer periods.
- Potentially increasing productivity as older workers tend to have a strong work ethic, work well in team settings and require minimal supervision.
- Older workers often want to leave an organization knowing they have made a difference.
Now to touch upon some common myths!
Myth: Older workers are less productive
Fact: Intellectual capacity and the ability to perform routine or repetitive tasks are not influenced by age. Research shows workers who perform the same tasks for a number of years enjoy the benefit of accumulated work experience. However, physical strength does diminish with age.
Myth: Older workers are quick to retire
Fact: Increasingly, employees view retirement as a gradual process, remaining connected to the workforce in some way when they retire from their primary career slowly existing the career.
Statistics Canada conducted a survey of workers between the ages of 50 and 75. Over half indicated they plan to continue to work on a part-time basis when they retire!
Myth: Training older workers is costly
Fact: Older workers tend to be loyal and are less likely to frequently change jobs. In a knowledge economy, the payback period on investment in training is becoming shorter; spending money on training older workers may be recovered before those workers retire.
Myth: Older workers are less receptive to training
Fact: Baby boomers prefer working in challenging environments where they can improve their skill sets and careers. A job-related training study of older workers conducted by Statistics Canada shows training among workers aged 55-64 more than doubled between 1991 and 2008.
There are a number of ways in which you can attract and retain a strong and effective workforce. All ages should likely be represented in the workplace while some work may require and benefit from strategically positioning the right employee for the work to be done and the market to be served. The real news in the above summary is that older workers can and do punch above their weight class when given the opportunity to do so!