Harnessing the Older Workforce

By 2030, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that one in every five residents will be older than age 65.  This means we are fortunate to be living longer and enjoying more healthy lifestyles.  These factors contribute to creating a significant pool of older workers looking to find their “next act” of employment. Today, employers remain desperate to find the workers they need to fill open positions and as a result face closing, cutting hours, and reducing services.  When you have an aging population ready and willing to work, there can be advantages for employers to actively recruit and hire older workers.  From a customer demographics perspective, mature workers can respond and relate more effectively to older customers – a win for many employers.  In this article, I will explore the advantages to hiring older and offer some strategies to attract this often overlooked and untapped resource.

Strategies to effectively tap into the older workforce:

  1. Recognize the Benefits of Older Workers: Older workers can be highly valued as they bring years of knowledge, skills, and experience as well as a sense of dedication, strong work ethic, and loyalty to the job in the context of a multigenerational workforce.
  1. Tap Aging Networks: Reach out to AARP and other organizations whose market is older individuals who may be looking for opportunities.
  1. Rethink Job Descriptions: Remove words in job descriptions that would deter older applicants such as “digital native”, “recent grads”, “college student” to name a few.
  1. Offer Reasonable Accommodations: As workers age, health issues are more likely to occur.  Employers can look at additional accommodations such as more frequent breaks, various seating options, etc.
  1. Flexible Scheduling and Benefits Options: An employer may want to consider offering flexible benefits which include reduced or staggered hours, remote working options, compressed schedules or job sharing, generous wellness programs, and eldercare support (to assist workers with aging parents). There is a clever initiative where CVS Health offers employees a ‘snowbird program’ which gives employees the opportunity to temporarily transfer on a seasonal basis and work in a store in a warmer state during the winter. This allows the corporation to better serve customers in warmer climate stores during the busy winter season and employees can remain at their jobs while spending the winter months where they prefer.  Interesting to note, 20% of the CVS Health workforce is comprised of older employees.
  1. Make Older Workers Feel Valued: An employer may demonstrate their respect and value for older workers by opening the lines of communication and sending messages of thanks and appreciation. Another strategy is to set up formal coaching and mentoring programs where older employees can share their knowledge and experience with younger workers. Most importantly, employers and supervisors must avoid stereotyping older workers and making assumptions about their abilities. Instead, focus on their strengths and applaud them for their ability to give back to the organization.
  1. Offer Older Workers Additional Training: An employer may want to provide additional classes on computers or mobile devices and other technologies to older workers who may feel threatened or intimidated by general employee training, but still have the capacity, desire, and need to learn new skills. By training older workers and continuing to invest in them, there is a greater chance that these individuals may continue to bring value to the organization.
  1. Offer Phased Retirement/Retire Casually Options: Frequently, older workers do not want to completely disengage, they just want to work less. Phased retirement allows a worker to slowly decrease their hours worked over a period of months or years while at the same time allowing the organization to benefit from the worker’s knowledge and expertise. Phased retirement also enables a worker to continue earning a salary to help with future retirement or healthcare costs, and allows for continued medical, dental, and vision coverage. Finally, increased time away from work may give older workers a window into how they want to spend their retirement once they are fully retired. A gradual transition, rather than an abrupt one, may be the best solution for both the employer and the employee.

Securing a workforce that includes older workers creates a win for both employees and employers and a compelling game plan to address the current workforce shortage.


“What Is Ahead for the Nation’s Aging Workforce – Older People Working Longer, Earning More” by Erika Mcentarfer, April 24, 2018 (https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2018/04/aging-workforce.html)

“Older Workers Are Being Pushed Out Of The Job Market”, by Jack Kelly, Forbes, February 16, 2021 (https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackkelly/2021/02/16/older-workers-are-being-pushed-out-of-the-job-market/?sh=55cbf6868e91)

“Creative Ways to Attract and Retain Older Workers, SDG Resource Center, XPertHR, March 5, 2019 (https://sdgresources.relx.com/articles-features/creative-ways-attract-and-retain-older-workers)

“How Innovative Employers Engage Older Workers – Part 1, by Ken Dychtwald LinkedIn, August 4, 2021 (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-innovative-employers-engage-older-workers-part-1-ken-dychtwald/?trk=public_profile_article_view)

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