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Sep 2013
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September 24, 2013

Businesses Adapting to an Aging Workforce


Work experience? Today’s employees have got plenty.

In a recent Warner Norcross & Judd client survey, 83 percent of respondents reported that the average age of their workforce has increased – 28 percent said “significantly increased” – over the last decade. The responses mirror U.S. Census statistics and analysis that the number of older Americans in the workforce continues to grow.

In fact, the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College says that by 2019, workers 55 and older will comprise 25 percent of the workforce, partly because people are living longer and healthier lives and partly because many workers cannot afford to give up a regular paycheck.

As workers postpone retirement, savvy employers are adjusting their policies and training to accommodate the wide gap in ages and work styles of their employees, which now many include as many as four different generations.

At Fifth Third Bank, for example, all new team members are assigned a peer mentor. Also, to address a disparity in technology sophistication, the bank “invested in a robust e-learning system to keep our longer-term staff learning and acknowledge that we needed a more nimble way to educate new team members,” said Tom Merchant, a senior vice-president and director of human resources at the bank.

Fifth Third and other businesses also stress inclusion. “Simply stated, we encourage ‘valuing differences,’ and ask staff to embrace what their co-workers bring to work,” Merchant added.

Another organization that responded to the survey said the main balancing act has been on the benefits side, particularly in tailoring plans that satisfy the differing medical needs and wants of different age groups.

Other companies reported work-life balance, the use of socialmedia during work hours anddiffering communicationsstyles as challenges.

Warner’s Lou Rabaut, who has been practicing labor law for more than three decades, has some advice for employers who are challenged by a workforce that may include many different generationsof workers. He offers these four tips:
 
  1. Play to people’s strengths, as opposed to only identifying their weaknesses and attempting to fix them.
  2. Pair different types of individuals so one can learn from the strengths of the other. This can be very valuable in terms of constructing teams.
  3. Be careful of stereotypes, both positive and negative ones, because they may be incorrect.
  4. Invest in training, both for younger and older workers.

Warner surveyed HR clients on the aging workforce trend. Based on the 146 responses, the results are below.

The percentage of people 65 or older in the labor force increased from 12 percent in 1990 to 16 percent in 2010 and is likely to continue to grow, according to U.S. Census figures and analysis. Approximately what percentage of your workforce is 65 or older?



Has the average age of your workforce changed over the last decade or so?

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