Unfinished Business: Seniors In The Workforce

Seniors In The Workforce

The PBS Newshour recently aired a segment about seniors in the workforce called Unfinished Business. As the population ages and older workers make up more and more of the labor force, some employers are beginning to adapt to the needs of an aging workforce.

Senior Worker

One employee interviewed returned to work as a part-time supervisor after two years of retirement. “Retirement wasn’t really what I thought it would be. I’m a doer. What’s really important to me is to pass some of the knowledge that I have on to the younger generation.” Another 66-year-old employee who still works as an administrator was permitted a flexible part-time workweek. When asked if they missed working full-time the answer was a fast no. They enjoy working part-time and like the financial stability it provides.

Companies are realizing a large portion of their employee population is quickly approaching retirement, and with them goes valuable knowledge, skill set and commitment. To retain experienced workers, companies have begun accommodating with shorter workweeks. This allows firms to leverage worker experience and help workers ease into retirement. They mentor less-experienced workers with a two or three day work week making the transition easier on the company when they fully leave a few years later.

Skilled Labor Shortage

As the report explains, firms are not exactly making these retention adjustments out of the kindness of their hearts. They have little choice since the fastest-growing segment of the labor force is workers 55 or older. As one CEO explained, “We do everything to keep our older workers because — A, they’re so skilled, and, B, we don’t have the people to fill in behind them.” According to the Department of Labor, the U.S. economy faces an unprecedented skilled labor shortage with 7.6 million unfilled jobs, but only 6.5 million people were looking for work as of January 2019.

Flexibility Matters To Seniors

Many retirees are motivated and want to work. They bring years of experience and desire to continue contributing. According to New York University economist Andrew Caplin’s research, 60% of retirees say they’d go back to work if it were flexible. But for so many, there is a lack of flexible job opportunities. So a temporary “time out” from working turns into permanent retirement. Economist Andrew Caplin believes retirees are a huge untapped pool of productivity.

As the proportion of older workers continue to grow, companies will have to face this issue. More and more will realize they need to keep employing experienced people who want a flexible workweek. The most imaginative firms will accommodate their senior workers who clearly value flexibility.


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