The topic of aging populations has been on the lips of HR professionals for some time now, but it has always been just out of real touching distance as we’ve never really experienced the sharp end of older worker engagement; that is those over 65, who will represent a fundamental change to the working landscape.
But, it seems we are beginning to reach that sharp end now as U.S. DOL figures show that the percentage of workers over the traditional retirement age of 65 is at an all-time high. It seems that over a third of men between the ages of 65 and 69 are working in the U.S. and so are a quarter of women. We are seeing a similar picture in the UK; while in 2001, just 450,000 people over 65 were working, this figure has now doubled to 1,000,000, suggests research from Towers Watson.
It seems that the aging population issue is now upon us and it can no longer be ignored or at least comfortably (or uncomfortably) slotted into an existing, more generalized HR strategy, which is what it seems many organizations are doing. Yes, the Towers Watson research showed that 59 percent of employers are not really optimizing their working conditions to get the most out of 65+ workers, and just 50 percent believe their organizations understand the changing needs of their workers over their professional like cycle.
So, it seems that the majority of employers are not really ready to hire and retain the 65+ age group, but the evidence suggests that it is really time for this to change. Because, as we have shown above, the 65+ age group represents a large proportion of the workforce now, and by 2050 this group could represent 20 percent of the population—many of these will want to work.
But, plain availability is not the only reason to welcome the 65+ age group with open arms. Older workers bring a wealth of experience, which means they will be able to act as mentors for your younger workers, thereby enhancing their careers. And mentoring schemes are more than mere window dressing as research shows that they boost career agility in your business. Yes, a Sun Microsystems study of over 1,000 workers over five years showed that those who have been mentored were six times more likely to have been promoted to a bigger role and were promoted five times more often than those without mentors.
Older workers can also be more efficient. For example, Blessing White’s Global Engagement report shows that baby boomers and workers over 65 are more engaged than younger workers. A Met Life study has shown that older workers tend to stay longer, which equals lower replacement costs.
But, to be truly ready to hire older workers over 65 you’ll need to make part-time opportunities available as many older workers will not be interested or necessarily able to engage in a 50-hour work week into their seventies. So, ensure to build an agile organization, which has a healthy balance of part-time roles so your business can appeal to older workers or any worker requiring flexibility.