Hiring Older Workers: Reasons To Close The Gap

Written by: Susan Williams

We are currently experiencing a labour shortage in North America.

In the US, there are now more jobs than people looking for work and this situation is no different in Canada.

If you think this is a good thing unfortunately this isn’t necessarily the case. If left unchecked for too long, this situation could have a significant impact on the economy. This is because labour shortages can drive up wages as businesses compete to try and fill their vacancies. When the wages are increased, this also then increases the cost of products and services which then can turn into increased inflation rates.

But there may be some specific implications in this situation when it comes to older workers.

First the good news.

There are many people planning on working past the traditional age of retirement and this could be a really good thing to help in this situation. In fact, according to the Retirement Confidence Survey published by EBRI (Employee Benefit Research Institute), 8 in 10 workers believe they will work for pay in retirement.

Now for the bad news.

Out of these possible 8 workers that want to work for pay in retirement, they discovered only 3 actually do.

So we have a gap – and it’s a significant one for both businesses and workers.

If I was to do some very basic math, there are an estimated 10,000 baby boomers in the US crossing over into retirement age everyday. This represents approximately 3.65 million workers a year. So if 80% of these people would like to work longer and yet only 30% actually do, that would mean there is potentially a workforce each year of approximately 2.04 million people that may be going untapped.

But businesses need to be engaged and actively looking at this opportunity if they want to tap into these resources. But unfortunately, some companies current ageist attitudes are stopping them from doing this.

Harvard Business Review conducted some research with 10,000 companies and this is what they discovered;

“Over two-thirds of the companies considered older age a competitive disadvantage. This is consistent with data from the AARP that shows two-thirds of individuals age 45 to 74 have experienced age-related discrimination. In other words, if you are older, you are likely to be considered less capable, less able to adapt, or less willing to roll up your sleeves and do something new than your younger peers.”

But these aging stereotypes are so wrong. As I shared in a previous post concerning the developing issue of a gray ceiling for older workers, older workers actually;

  • - help organizations stay more productive
  • - contribute skills and experiences that can’t be developed overnight
  • - stay with organizations longer then their younger colleagues
  • - and to many people’s surprise are actually quite technically savvy

Along with not offering employment opportunities, many employers are also not supporting the development of older workers skills as well.

HRD (Human Resources Director) shared some research that they recently conducted with 1,000 employees in the United States. What they discovered was that “60 % of Baby Boomers feel insecure about their current skillsets, and 73% say their employers don’t help them identify the skills they need to develop for the future.”

So in a nutshell – here’s the gap we need to close;

Businesses need workers. Would-be retirees would like to work. It’s doesn’t seem that complicated to me to have some discussions and figure out some creative ways to do this – and do it well.

Flexible work options, offering interesting work and assignments, the chance to mentor employees are all just some examples of some ways to leverage this available talent. I think it’s just a matter of putting aside some outdated ideas and thinking and moving progressively forward into the future – for everyone’s benefit.

Related: Your Greatest Retirement Asset Could Be Your Attitude