Blog: How to Handle a Workforce That's Getting Older

How to Handle a Workforce That's Getting Older

Statistics show that over the next five to ten years, workers over the age of 40 will make up the majority of the US workforce. On top of that, population growth among those ages 65 and older is outpacing the growth of those ages 25 to 64 in developed nations across the globe. This new reality presents some interesting issues for employers. By understanding this new landscape and how to handle it, companies can ensure that they have the right practices in place.

Keeping Organizational Knowledge

A common challenge for companies across numerous industries is employees build up considerable knowledge about products, services or processes and then take that information with them when they leave. With regards to an aging workforce, there are two main strategies for dealing with this issue. The first is for companies to do a better job of getting that information out of employees' heads and into documentation. And the second is encouraging older employees to stay on the job. Doing so can maximize the amount of time a company can benefit from the substantial knowledge of key employees.

Understand That Retirement is Inevitable

When someone has been in a role for two to three decades, it's easy to get comfortable and think that they will stay in it "forever." Unfortunately, that's simply not how things work, which is why even though companies should encourage valuable employees to stay, they also need to be realistic about when employees are likely to retire. One way to help bridge this gap is to strengthen relationships between younger and older employees. Making an effort to create these kind of relationships can maximize the training and knowledge that younger employees receive.

Consider Expanding Benefits

A few decades ago, many companies created childcare centers because their employees needed a place for their children to go. Now that the tide is shifting to an older workforce, some companies are looking at what they can do to provide the same types of benefits to mature workers. An example of this is establishing a home health care program for employees' elderly family members. There are already companies that provide a 50 percent subsidy for coverage as well as resources, referrals, classes and support groups for employees who are caring for elderly relatives.

One important note about this kind of program is it takes into account the specific ways elder care can differ from child care, including the fact that elder care often involves long-distance care. Although this may seem like a lavish benefit to provide, once a company actually runs the numbers, they may find that the cost pales in comparison to what they would spend on replacing very experienced employees who decide to leave because of these type of life demands.

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