How Prepared Is Your Organization for an Aging Workforce?

New research from the Society for Human Resource Management indicates that only about a third of organizations are preparing for a workforce that skews older. Find out why recruiting, retaining, and capitalizing on the know-how of older workers makes good business sense.

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to finesse your finances, a recent review of your portfolio may have proven that you’ll need, or want, to work past the standard retirement age of 65.

No matter the reason, many Americans are preparing to work longer.

But are employers ready? A new survey [PDF] from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that only about a third of organizations are preparing for an older workforce by, for example, making changes in general management policies or in their retention or recruiting practices.

That discrepancy could signal a refusal on the part of organizations to acknowledge the impending effects that a growing number of older workers may have on the workplace, as columnist Kerry Hannon noted this week in Forbes.

“When SHRM’s survey hit my desk this morning, it got me twitching,” Hannon wrote. “There is a genuine sense of denial afoot, I fear.”

Hannon alludes to the desire of many boomers to continue working for the social, intellectual, health, and retirement benefits that come with employment and discusses some examples of companies working to recruit and retain older workers, including offering opportunities for phased retirement.

This option is one that AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins recommends. Speaking at ASAE’s Finance, HR, and Business Operations Conference last year, Jenkins advised organizations treat retirement as a process rather than a sudden event and allow employees to scale back in their work as they near full retirement.

While it may not be economically feasible for all organizations to offer this type of solution, it can provide benefits to the business in terms of intergenerational diversity.

“Embracing diversity has been a long and continuing journey for employers in all sectors across America, and it has taught us that the power of inclusion and diversity is America’s strength,” Jenkins said. “The struggle today to embrace older workers is a continuation of that journey.”

Despite the fact that only a third of respondents to the SHRM survey are putting in place policies to recruit and retain older workers, most of them reported their organizations are taking advantage of the benefits of intergenerational diversity. More than 60 percent of the almost 2,000 surveyed HR professionals, for example, said their organizations are trying to incorporate and capitalize on the experience of these workers.

Along the same lines, a majority of respondents also reported that their organizations are prepping for the skills gap that may lie ahead when older workers do retire by implementing training and cross-training programs to transfer knowledge to younger workers.

One association that is helping to prepare a new generation of leaders is the American College of Healthcare Executives. To help younger healthcare professionals, both members and staff, ready themselves to take on the executive roles that boomers may now fill, ACHE offers professional development and educational opportunities, including a tuition remission program and opportunities to volunteer with the association.

“Early careerists oftentimes don’t get the opportunity to lead individuals in their jobs, and a wonderful opportunity is to do that as a volunteer in the chapter role,” ACHE President and CEO Thomas C. Dolan, Ph.D., FACHE, CAE, told Associations Now.

How is your association preparing for an aging workforce and the impact boomer retirement may have? Let us know in the comments.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!