In a previous post, we discussed recent data showing the significant impact older workers have had on the current labor shortage. In an article for CNN, Allison Morrow cited data showing that workers over age 55 represented an astonishing 90% of the 3.6 million American workers who left the workforce in November 2021 without plans to return.
Institutional Knowledge at Risk
Losing older workers can create huge gaps in industry and institutional knowledge and experience, in addition to decreasing the number of employees. In this post, we look at some strategies for employers to help stop the bleeding and hold onto or even reclaim those older workers.
Why Older Workers are at Risk
Several factors have combined to make it particularly appealing for older workers to leave the workforce:
- Fears of COVID-19’s impact on their health
- Unwillingness to adhere to new health and safety rules
- Financial security caused by strong housing and stock markets
The game plan for retaining and recruiting older workers must address these factors in order to be successful. Organizations should consider the following factors to help stem the tide of their most seasoned workers.
Health and Safety
First and foremost, it’s essential for employers to make a commitment to employee health and safety. If older workers trust their employers are looking out for their physical well-being, they will be far more likely to stay on the job or even return to work. It’s important to not only promote employee health and safety but also clearly communicate and demonstrate that commitment.
Many older workers, even those who fear for their own health, begrudge new health and safety measures, including vaccine requirements, mask requirements, social distancing, and other rules. Of course, health and safety need to come first, but whenever possible, companies should allow flexibility to mitigate the impact of those requirements. This could include remote work options, for example.
It’s generally not possible for companies to entice all of their older workers to remain by throwing money at them. But for a select few, that option should be on the table. Sometimes, the institutional knowledge and industry experience an employee with 30 years on the job can provide are worth far more than even a significant salary increase or bonus.
The rapid exodus of millions of older workers from the workforce means the current labor market dynamic is unlikely to be temporary. Rather, employers are likely seeing the permanent departure of some of their longest-tenured and most experienced employees. Therefore, it’s worth thinking about strategies to slow or even pause that trend.
Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.