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How Old Can You Go?

How old are you? Not trying to be too nosyespecially since we already asked that question when we conducted the IW 2007 Salary Survey earlier this year. But it's an especially relevant question when you consider that fully half (50%) of all respondents to the Salary Survey are at least 50 years old, and that this age group represents the largest available workforce segment.

In a study of 1,000 U.S. employers in various industries, employment services company Manpower discovered that 78% are not concerned that an aging workforce might hamper their ability to recruit and retain talented workers. What's more, just 28% of survey respondents have a strategy to retain workers past retirement age, while a mere 18% have a strategy to recruit older workers.

"There is a real contradiction occurring in hiring trends right now," says Melanie Holmes, Manpower's vice president of corporate affairs North America. "Employers acknowledge that they are having trouble finding qualified candidates to fill open positions, but we are learning that they need help implementing programs that are tailored to older workers. With the first wave of Baby Boomers on the cusp of traditional retirement age, there is still time to engage a generation that is willing and able to continue working."

The main reasons companies aren't focusing on older workers, according to Manpower, are cost and productivity issues. "Business savvy employers are right to consider the time and money that goes into establishing retention and recruiting programs aimed at older workers," says Holmes. "However, to make a fully informed decision, the business impact of unfilled positions and the value of the knowledge and productivity that mature professionals offer must also be weighed. Even though it may require extra effort, employers are likely to come out ahead in the return on investment."

Manpower recommends that companies consider some of these best practices:

Training programs. Mature workers are lifelong learners, and programs that build skills and increase employment opportunities will positively impact employee engagement.

Flexible scheduling options. Non-traditional schedules are one of the top priorities for older workers. Policies that offer part-time, flextime, job sharing, project work or generous time-off plans allow those in their retirement years to have ample time for work and personal pursuits.

Job redesigns. While mature employees want to work, many prefer to offer their services in a different capacity. Whether it's less travel, fewer responsibilities or a decrease in physical demands, consider job accommodations in order to retain the institutional knowledge and skills of the most experienced employees.

Targeted recruiting strategies. Consider how to reach people in the demographics that meet your needs. Look to professional organizations, company-sponsored alumni groups and online communities for possible candidates.

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