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7 Ways an Aging Workforce Will Affect HR

the aging workforce

The number of employees working into their senior years continues to grow for a variety of reasons, with financial need, the failure of private pension plans, and lack of sufficient health benefits being among the most prominent. Older workers typically bring many vital assets to the table, such as solid life experience, better attitudes, work flexibility and an interest in learning new things. However, there are many issues for management to consider when comes to successfully manage an increasingly “graying” aging workforce.   Here are seven of the most common ones:

1.       RATIO OF OLDER WORKERS – Compared with the past, their numbers can be expected to grow disproportionately in the years to come. This is not an issue in the US alone – but a pattern being observed globally.

2.       LONGER-TERM RETIREMENTS – Today the average number of years that workers spend in retirement is more than 30, compared with just a few years of retirement a century ago. This means that many will choose to remain working part time, while others may take a break to travel and enjoy their free time before beginning their job search again.

3.       HEALTH ISSUES – Chronic health problems and age-related disabilities need to be considered. Among employees over 55, arthritis is the number one chronic condition. The implementation of better wellness programs and similar initiatives offers possible ways of avoiding excessive time off for illness.

4.       MULTI-GENERATIONS – In the years to come, HR professionals will be increasingly challenged by the need for multi-generational workers to successfully function as a team. Different generations often hold opposing attitudes towards work and life. If not managed properly, these differences could result in ineffective performance in the workplace.  The pairing of an experienced, competitive baby-boomer with a lifestyle-centric, laid-back Gen Y employee represents just one of the potential situations. It will take a proactive leader to understand the problems that are likely to arise, and how to preemptively act to avoid them.

5.       AGE DISCRIMINATION –  With more senior Americans still in the workforce, we can expect to see an increasing number of lawsuits being initiated by disgruntled employees seeking to play the ”age” card.  Workers over the age of 40 are protected from discrimination on the basis of age by the provisions of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (which affects employers with 20+ employees). HR will need to be educated on the latest laws and the trends in discrimination-based litigation.

6.       SUCCESSION PLANNING – With fewer “young” workers entering the job market due to lower fertility rates in the US and most the industrialized world, succession planning will become more and more difficult. The talent may just not be available in every area. Using remote workers from across the country may need to be considered.

7.       MEDICAL COSTS – Older employees won’t necessary cost more in healthcare. Although it is a well-known fact that health benefits for older workers are costly due to age-related diseases, younger workers also have a host of cost-related health issues such as smoking, pregnancy, lack of exercise, and obesity. Older workers who qualify may have medicare benefits as well.

Although the change in demographics may change the face of talent acquisition and management, with simple strategies, the change may be a smoother transition for business.

1 Comment

  1. Mark J. Grossman on June 7, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    Great analysis, Tricia. We see this trend as well at the state Labor department. During this recession, we’ve seen more mature workers file Unemployment Insurance claims than in any other period. And it places new challenges upon the workforce development/One-Stop system re: the kinds of services we can or should offer an older worker. Retraining? For someone age 60-plus, not really practical. Resume writing and interview skills? Perhaps, but most in that age bracket don’t need it. A recent online Microsoft Office Suite training package was very popular with older dislocated workers looking to help make themselves more marketable by increasing their computer skills.

    In addition, if you haven’t already seen it, the LIA has a study from last year that dramatically shows the severe workforce shortage that Long Island will face in 4-5 years unless we do something to address the flight of young people to more “cool” communities. If you haven’t seen it, I’d be happy to send it to you.


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