Although U.S. employers are struggling to fill jobs in the midst of talent shortages, most do not have specialized retention and recruiting strategies targeting the largest available workforce segment - those over age 50 - according to new research.
In the study of 1,000 U.S. employers, 78% indicated they were not concerned that an aging workforce might hamper their ability to recruit and retain talented workers. Additional findings support this sentiment, including the fact that only 28% of survey respondents reported having a strategy to retain workers past retirement age while just 18% have a strategy to recruit older workers.
There is a real contradiction occurring in hiring trends right now. Employers acknowledge that they are having trouble finding qualified candidates to fill open positions, but we are learning that they need help implementing programs that are tailored to older workers. With the first wave of Baby Boomers on the cusp of traditional retirement age, there is still time to engage a generation that is willing and able to continue working.
Employers do perceive roadblocks when it comes to hiring older workers, primarily cost and productivity issues. Business savvy employers are right to consider the time and money that goes into establishing retention and recruiting programs aimed at older workers. However, to make a fully informed decision, the business impact of unfilled positions and the value of the knowledge and productivity that mature professionals offer must also be weighed. Even though it may require extra effort, employers are likely to come out ahead in the return on investment.
Employers that explicitly include older workers as part of their talent strategy have found success with programs that appeal to the wants and needs of the workers themselves. Companies considering retention and recruiting programs that appeal to older workers should explore some of these successful practices:
- Training programs - Mature workers are lifelong learners, and programs that build skills and increase employment opportunities will positively impact employee engagement
- Flexible scheduling options - Studies confirm that non-traditional schedules are one of the top priorities for older workers. Policies that offer part-time, flextime, job sharing, project work or generous time-off plans allow those in their retirement years to have ample time for work and personal pursuits
- Job redesigns - While mature employees want to work, many would elect to bring value to an organization in a different capacity. Whether it's less travel, fewer responsibilities or a decrease in physical demands, consider job accomodatios in order to retain the institutional knowledge and skills of the most experienced employees
- Targeted recruiting strategies - As with any hiring plan, employers should consider how to reach people in the demographics that meet their needs, and older workers are no exception. Look to professional organizations, company-sponsored alumni groups and online communities for possible candidates
Employers who respond to the aging workforce will fare better in the competition for talent and find that they benefit from a richer, more diverse workforce. The key is to start planning now for future talent needs.
The U.S. findings were part of a global study which surveyed more than 28,000 employers across 25 countries and territories in November 2006. The study found that 14% of employers worldwide have strategies in place to recruit older workers and 21% have implemented plans to keep them participating in the workplace.