The Boomers are going to keep booming. In the last twenty-five years, the American labor market saw the number of workers 55 and older double from 12% in 1995 to 25% in 2020 before the pandemic. The labor force is expected to increase 5.5 percent, from 2020 to 2030. Among people aged 75 years and older, the labor force is expected to grow by 96.5 percent over the next decade. How is your business going to take advantage of an aging, but reliable workforce?
A Lost Workforce Fighting Ageism
While economists expect these numbers to continue to rise, the pandemic hit older workers the hardest.The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports workers over the age of 65 left the workforce more in 2020 when the pandemic took hold, than any year since tracking such information began in 1948. The biggest fear is that many of them will never have a job again, which could prove problematic in their immediate and long term financial security.
But there are many older workers who are still out there trying to find a new gig. AARP discovered nearly half of underemployed workers ages 45+ are job hunting—about 30 percent for a full-time position and 18 percent for an additional part-time job. One in four respondents reports having been on the job-market for six months or more.
In the 2018 study, AARP found that just “adding flexible and part-time options would have encouraged 75 percent of people aged 50 and older to stay in the workforce longer. And more training opportunities would have helped 55 percent of the same group to continue working.”
Finding creative ways to use older workers is crucial as well. In the Apple Store on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, older workers are strategically placed toward the front of the store so customers who might be overwhelmed by technology or the environment feel more comfortable. A few blocks away on the Lower East Side, some older customers request that only the older workers prepare their orders. Younger customers and tourists who see this desiring the same NYC experience, request this as well according to the owners of the legendary deli.
More than 78% of applicants over the age of 40 report feeling ageism in their job search. It’s even worse for older women. Ageism in the workplace deprives companies of talent and productivity, deprives older adults of income and sense of purpose and connection, and is against the law. It also decimates the economy. In the same AARP study, researchers calculated what older workers might have contributed to the economy if they had not been subject to age discrimination. Their contribution was estimated as $850 billion in gross domestic product. By 2050, losses due to age discrimination could climb to $3.9 trillion.
Take a look at your workforce. If it looks a little fresh-faced, it may be time to adjust your hiring strategy. Older workers bring much more than just experience. They can help your organization reduce costs, create innovative products and services and develop an outstanding reputation within the community.
One in three older workers lack the foundational digital skills needed for jobs today.
Older workers should put it upon themselves to be competent and competitive in the job search. A lot of jobs often require being somewhat tech-savvy, able to adapt to the work-culture, being knowledgeable and flexible. Add to that list being decisive, committed to helping the company reach its goals, and, last but not least, being likable. Here’s how you can help older job seekers find success in your business.
- Review pay equity according to job level, not tenure.
- Include age diversity into diversity, equity and inclusion programs.
- Give older workers roles as managers, supervisors or mentors, as deserved.
- Recruit older persons.
- Teach recruiters not to discriminate because of age.
- Build a multigenerational workforce.
- Create more pathways for training
Most businesses will need to examine how they approach the issue of ageing workers as a matter of priority. Those that do this now can generate a competitive advantage in a world where the war for talent is ongoing. WSI encourages the hiring of older workers who can help you balance your workforce and achieve diversity in your business. They are a very valuable resource for a company when it comes to their experience with different technologies because they’re able to make recommendations that will help organizations move forward.