The global workforce is getting older. Japan — where the average business owner is 62 years old — is a poster child for this change, but it’s happening around the world. In 1990, the average worker was 33. By 2018, that number rose to 38 and by 2025 it’s projected to be near 40 years old.
There are a lot of demographic drivers behind this. Younger generations are studying longer, delaying their entry into the workforce, while modern medicine is helping older generations extend their careers. The result is an evolving talent pool with shifting needs that HR leaders are charged with addressing. Here are five great ways you can manage — and thrive with — today’s workforce.
Ageing Workforce Statistics To Set The Scene
Here’s a closer look at the current status of today’s workers:
- By the end of this decade, 2030, 9.5% of the labor force will be over 65 years old, according to the U.S Bureau of Statistics.
- The employment of workers aged 65 and older has grown by over 117% in the past 20 years, a report by the CDC found.
- While the labor participation rate of most age groups is projected to decrease, it is expected to rise for employees 75 years old and older, from 8.9% in 2020 to 11.7% by 2030, reports by U.S Bureau of Statistics found.
- One in every six retired employees are considering returning to work, with 53% looking for a remote position, according to a report by Paychex.
This elongated work life is why some organizations have as many as five different generations in their workforce today. Supporting that many age groups means catering to the different needs people have throughout their life, from interns in their 20s to managers in their 70s. For many companies, this requires asking how to update their policies, benefits, and human resource practices business so they address the needs of everyone.
Five Ways to Support an Ageing Workforce
Ensuring your company is meeting the needs of its older workers can start by asking yourself questions like: How do we see older workers in our company? Is there any stigma in our organization tied to ageing that needs to be addressed? What opportunities can we provide those later in their careers? How can our company support physical and mental wellbeing across all ages and needs?
To help answer those questions, consider offering support and resources intended specifically for your older employees. Here are some practices to help attract, retain, and support an ageing workforce:
- Check and Challenge the Stereotypes
It's important to keep an eye out for negative stereotypes that come with an ageing workforce. Things like: "They're slower" or "They won't be able to learn new technology" are ageist comments that are harmful to members of the older generation and can damage employees' ability to work together. Comments like that can also run afoul of anti-discrimination laws, as it is illegal to treat workers over the age of 40 differently than younger workers.
Such opinions do creep into the workplace from time-to-time, with more than a third of workers over 45 years old in an Aviva study saying they feel they are discriminated against in their workplace. It's important to change the narrative and create a company culture where every employee is given the same opportunities. This can start with inter-generational conversations and sharing insights. After all, companies that retain and attract a multigenerational workforce experience an increase in innovation, a study by IAB found.
You can help your team experience the value of older workers' experience with knowledge-sharing workshops or have senior employees mentor new staff. Such initiatives foster collaboration within the team and create opportunities for valuable knowledge exchange.
Internal training programs where experienced company members can turn their knowledge and expertise into useful training resources is another initiative that recognizes the advantages of experience at the institutional level.
- Update Policies to Meet Needs
Policies that meet the needs of an age-inclusive workplace can help companies attract and retain an older workforce. Workers want to be confident that they’ll be supported and valued in their workforce, and that doesn’t fade with age.
Consider reviewing health issues that are specifically applicable to the older population and finding ways your workplace could support those needs. This might look like implementing policies that take into account more comprehensive healthcare insurance, or providing additional wellbeing initiatives in the workplace. For example, you could sponsor an on-site wellness day for employees to receive annual physicals and flu shots, making it easy and convenient for employees to access these resources.
Another consideration is shifting working conditions to be more ergonomic for older adults, and to grant additional sick days to workers above a certain age or provide access to better health insurance plans without fearing they'll be discriminated against for using them.
- Gradual Retirements
A phased retirement program allows older employees at or beyond the traditional retirement age to reduce their working hours from full-time to part-time. This allows employers to keep expertise on staff and gives employees a chance to ease into retirement instead of leaving their career and professional community overnight.
Phased retirement allows employees to transfer their knowledge before going into a formal retirement, or have the opportunity to work longer in less-stressful roles. As noted in anby SHRM, this gives employees the option to lower their level of responsibility and participate in flexible project-based roles. This is a popular plan among workers, with 29% of the workforce aged 61 to 66 saying they intend to reduce their work hours as they transition to retirement, according toa report by GAO.
Introducing a phased retirement program for employees approaching retirement age could include a roadmap that outlines what the process looks like at the company, including salary, work hours, and Social Security options. Managers should also schedule regular discussions with employees close to retirement age to understand their perspectives, financial requirements, and job transitions.
- Increase Job Flexibility
Flexible job hours are the main factor that encourages older generations to return to work, areport by CNBC found. This is because "flexible jobs" offer the ideal middle step between full-time and retirement. This is especially true for older employees that need to take care of ageing partners or family members, but still need the continuous income of a full-time job.
Providing flexible work hours could mean offering remote work options, part-time, or flex hours to attract retired employees to fill up vacant positions. This allows older employees to be productive, while also balancing their personal commitments.
Alternatively, to attract boomerang Boomers, companies can introduce a "return-to-work" initiative. This allows retired employees can come back in a part-time or consulting capacity to fill vacant jobs or work on projects. It lets companies benefit from their past workers' experience on projects or consultations, over a full-time position. This flexible offer also saves costs from onboarding and training new hires, as noted in anarticle by SHRM.
- Invest in Career Development
Constant learning is a matter-of-fact for today’s workforce, whether somebody is new to the field or decades into their career. Career roles and responsibilities are now ever-changing as new technologies keep making over markets and consumer desires.
Formal learning and training opportunities offered by your company may be especially appreciated by older employees who have already adapted to new technologies several times throughout their career. Investing in their continued skill development demonstrates that the company values their growth. It also shows they are regarded as essential and that the organization knows it is worth investing time and resources to enhance their abilities to compete with market requirements.
These efforts can also help your organization stay staffed in a tight labor market. Supporting career development opportunities leads to an increase in retention rates of senior employees, according to a study published by the Australian Journal of Career Development found.
Supporting Your Workforce In Every Stage of Life
With age, our health becomes our wealth. Employee wellness programs can be a great way to support an ageing workforce, helping your older employees stay happy and productive. Initiatives that promote healthy habits — like exercise programs and nutrition resources — can improve the wellbeing of older workers and reduce a company’s healthcare costs, a study published by the Gerontologist found.
Wellbeing programs have also been found to boost worker productivity and drive talent management savings in workers of every age. Speak with a Gympass wellbeing specialist to learn how we can support your whole workforce!
- CDC. (2015) Data and Statistics - Productive Aging and Work | NIOSH |. CDC. Retrieved May 12, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/productiveaging/dataandstatistics.html
- Cebs, S. M. (2019). Many Older Workers Would Prefer to Ease into Retirement. SHRM. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/many-older-workers-prefer-easing-into-retirement.aspx
- Crawford, R., Cribb, J., Karjalainen, H., & O’Brien, L. (2021, December 6). Changing patterns of work at older ages. Institute for Fiscal Studies. Retrieved May 10, 2023, from https://ifs.org.uk/publications/changing-patterns-work-older-ages
- GAO (2017) OLDER WORKERS Phased Retirement Programs, Although Uncommon, Provide Flexibility for Workers and Employers. GAO. Retrieved May 16, 2023, from https://www.gao.gov/assets/gao-17-536.pdf
- Hammermann, A., Niendorf, M., & Schmidt, J. (2019). Age Diversity and Innovation: Do mixed teams of ‘old and experienced’ and ‘young and restless’ employees foster companies’ innovativeness? Institute for Employment Research. Retrieved May 10, 2023, from https://doku.iab.de/discussionpapers/2019/dp0419.pdf
- Liesman, S. (2022, June 8). Many who lost jobs during pandemic would return for the right pay and position, CNBC survey finds. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2022/06/08/many-who-lost-jobs-during-pandemic-would-return-for-the-right-pay-and-position-cnbc-survey-finds.html
- Lobell, K. O. (2021, August 6). Welcoming Back Retired Employees. SHRM. Retrieved May 16, 2023, from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/retirees-return-to-work-.aspx
- Mok, I., Mackenzie, L., & Thomson, K. (2021). Career development and human resource management of older workers: A scoping review. Australian Journal of Career Development, 30(3), 226–239. https://doi.org/10.1177/10384162211069208Retrieved on 10 May 2023, from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/10384162211069208?journalCode=acda
- Paychex (2023, February 7). Are Retirees Quietly Rejoining the Workforce? (2023, February 7). Paychex. Retrieved May 16, 2023, from https://www.paychex.com/articles/human-resources/retirees-rejoining-the-workforce
- Pitt-Catsouphes, M, PhD, Boone James,J, PhD, and Matz-Costa,C, PhD (2015) Workplace-Based Health and Wellness Programs: The Intersection of Aging, Work, and Health, The Gerontologist, Volume 55, Issue 2, April 2015, Pages 262–270, https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnu114Retrieved May 16, 2023, from https://academic.oup.com/gerontologist/article/55/2/262/655153
- Plc, A. (2019, May 16). One third of mid-life workers believe age discrimination is an issue. Aviva Plc. Retrieved on 10 May 2023, from https://www.aviva.com/newsroom/news-releases/2019/05/one-third-of-mid-life-workers-believe-age-discrimination-is-an-issue/
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- Yoe, J. (2019). Why are older people working longer? : Monthly Labor Review: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved on 12 May 2023, from https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2019/beyond-bls/why-are-older-people-working-longer.html
The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.