Personnel e.bulletin – March 2015

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The Value of Retaining Older Workers

Prepared for the PHCC Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc.

We’ve all heard about how the aging of the Baby Boomer generation will lead to record numbers of older workers and retirees. Twenty-seven percent of the workforce was age 50 and older in 2007, but by 2016 one-third of workers will be in that age range. In the construction, repair, and maintenance industry, 24 percent of employees are older.

Workers age 55 and older may seem close to retirement. However, most older employees expect to continue working or to work part time past retirement age, whether for emotional or financial reasons.

These older workers are a valuable resource, so retaining them for their knowledge and skills, as well as the bridge they can provide to the younger workforce, will benefit your company in the long run.

Why You Should Try to Retain Older Workers
Retaining older workers can be more cost effective in the short term for companies – reducing the costs of recruiting, onboarding, training, and retaining younger employees. It can also ease the transition from more experienced employees to new hires.

Here are just a few of the qualities older workers display:

  • Reliability, loyalty, and stability
  • Maturity and professionalism
  • A strong work ethic

Just as important, these employees are familiar to and familiar with their company:

  • The company knows how to get the most out of these employees.
  • The employees understand the company’s customers and processes, and they have learned from past successes and failures. They can use this institutional knowledge both to continue excellent customer service and to pass on all that valuable information to younger workers.

With older workers retiring, there will naturally be a loss of institutional knowledge and skills.  The longer older workers stay with a company, the more they can help the company train and assimilate newer workers and decrease the impact of that loss.


How to Retain Older Workers

Older workers, like all employees, desire a workplace that respects them and meets their needs.  Your company can do several things to fit that bill.

Provide flexible work arrangements. Older workers value flexibility.  For example, companies can allow for shorter shifts for older employees or offer a schedule that maintains a set number of hours worked, but allows changes in arrival & departure times as needed.

Bridge the gap between employment and retirement. As part of their quest for flexibility, older workers may want to gradually scale back their work – whether their hours, responsibilities, or workload. Companies can shift older workers into new roles in which their expertise will be valued. Employers can also provide part-time or seasonal work.

Emphasize health and wellness. One of the top priorities for older workers is to maintain access to health insurance.  Retaining valuable older employees can outweigh the costs of giving them access to healthcare coverage.  This can include providing healthcare for part-time workers and plans that offer coverage to dependents.

Offer training. Older workers, just like younger workers, need and want to update their skills. Older employees can often learn more efficiently than their less experienced peers by applying new knowledge to their existing knowledge – and they then have the opportunity to pass along their knowledge to younger workers.

Recognize contributions. All employees want to feel valued, and they will be more satisfied with their jobs if they are recognized for their contributions. Companies can provide this recognition by asking older workers to continue working and assigning them new – and important – roles.  Such assignments can facilitate two important strategies for retaining older workers that benefit their employers:

  • Provide for growth opportunities.
  • Mentoring.  Older workers can continue to work in their field by mentoring – and their employers can therefore maintain access to their skills and knowledge. A company can offer incentives for mentoring; change the employee’s position to that of mentor; or bring older workers back to train younger workers or help the company onboard them.

Assist in planning for retirement. Many older employees don’t know if they’re financially ready to retire or understand the financial implications of retirement, so employer-provided retirement planning assistance can be a valuable tool for them. Also, if there’s an open dialogue about retirement in the workplace, older workers will be more likely to engage with their supervisors about their plans for retirement. The company will be better able to retain these workers and bridge the gap between older and younger workers.

How to Help Older Workers Plan for Retirement
You should not advise your employees on Social Security and pension issues, but you can give them the opportunity to obtain this information by sponsoring financial literacy programs via your retirement plan’s vendor.

Other Resources:

  • AARP: http://aarp.org
    Provides information to older workers, including resources for employees looking to whether they’re ready for retirement and how to prepare.

Older employees present a valuable resource to companies.  By providing a workplace that offers opportunities, flexibility, and greater retirement security to these workers, employers can maintain access to their skills and knowledge and ease the transition from older to younger workers.

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This content was developed for the PHCC Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc. (www.tpo-inc.com). Please consult your HR professional or attorney for further advice, as laws may differ in each state. Laws continue to evolve; the information presented is as of February 2015. Any omission or inclusion of incorrect data is unintentional. Please note this article is not intended to provide legal advice or to substitute for supervisor employment law training.

The PHCC Educational Foundation, a partnership of contractors, manufacturers and wholesalers was founded in 1987 to serve the plumbing-heating-cooling industry by preparing contractors and their employees to meet the challenges of a constantly changing marketplace. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting the Foundation by making a contribution at http://www.phccfoundation.org.

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