We’ve known for awhile that the workforce in the developed world has been getting older. The “Baby Boomer” generation was the largest in U.S. History and because Americans (and Europeans) are living longer, people are staying in the workforce longer and living more fulfilling lives. Companies are used to letting older workers go with early retirement packages and other perks. However, with an aging workforce, companies might think twice before shuttling there older workers out the door. 

Axios reported on this and brought up a few great points like the fact that people need to work longer due to their own financial planning but something that is overlooked is the fact that people are living longer. Retiring at 65 may not be the most ideal age to retire anymore. 

Companies Need to Prepare for Workers Working Longer

With an aging workforce, companies are going to need to adjust their hiring practices. Many workers over 50 struggle to land new positions at new organizations because many companies look for younger, more stable employees who will stay with the company longer even though younger workers regularly leave for a change of location or a pay raise. Any company who can master the ability to keep and retain workers over 50 will be at an advantage with their experience and stability. Also, companies that can provide amenities for older workers will attract them and retain them well into their early 70s. Adding flexible work hours and remote options are also great ways to attract and retain an older workforce. Companies also need to understand how older people prefer to work and adjust their spaces and policies accordingly to keep this valuable talent.

Older Workers Have Advantages

Companies should really take a second look at their older workers both for outside hiring and internal hiring. Older workers most likely have grown children and therefore won’t be off as much for personal family matters. Older workers also have more stable lives and are used to staying with an employer for a long time which means stability for companies and lower training and hiring costs. Older workers also bring years of experience with them and a familiarity with older systems, processes, and business practices. Most people are fairly tech savvy, these workers can span both worlds. If companies are looking for people with feet in the 20th and 21st centuries, older workers have all the necessary expertise to fill the gap. There are also numerous mentorship opportunities for younger workers as well. That can yield strong long-term company culture and tribal knowledge benefits. 

Keeping Older Workers May Make Career Advancement Harder

However, this increase in older workers doesn’t come without it’s downsides. Older workers staying in the workforce will mean that younger people may have a hard time advancing as people choose not to retire and positions up the corporate ladder just don’t come open. This has long term consequences as younger talent languishes in positions they aren’t happy with or feel overqualified to be in. This will also depress long-term earnings for some workers as they aren’t able to increase their salaries over time. This may lead to a shift of younger talent out the door to find a better opportunity. 

Final Thoughts

Older workers have some significant upsides for companies who take the time and energy to court this large workforce demographic. If companies can balance the right combination of workers in all positions, they can avoid losing younger talent while also retaining older workers in experienced roles.