Every day this year 7,918 people will celebrate their 60th birthday, according to projections by the U.S. Census Bureau. That works out to 2.89 million folks getting ready to either retire or rethink their work schedules. For manufacturers, it's time to offer choices to senior employees or risk losing years of knowledge and expertise.
What do older workers want from their employers?
"A lot of the things we talk about the Generation Y wanting are in complete harmony with what the boomers want in order to stay," says Suzanne Miklos, CEO of Cleveland-based Organizational Effectiveness Strategies, a consultancy that links business strategies with people strategies.
Specifically, older workers want to work fewer hours but still have a meaningful job responsibility. They don't want to be just a pair of hands; they want to make a contribution, according to Miklos.
Top Five Reasons Older Employees
|Competitive health-care benefits package||61%|
|Competitive retirement benefits package||54%|
|The caliber of people with whom they work||28%|
|Recognition for work||27%|
However, people are afraid to have that conversation. "Nobody wants to ask Joe when he might be retiring. It's the elephant in the room, and no one wants to speak up first," says Miklos.
For manufacturers, it would behoove them to start the dialogue before vast amounts of knowledge is lost.
Attractive Incentives For Workers 50+
|Flexible work arrangements||41%|
|Training to upgrade skills||34%|
|Time off for volunteerism||15%|
|Mentoring as a primary job responsibility||5%|
"We know there will be millions of baby boomers retiring and that some workers now entering the workforce lack core competencies," says Susan Meisinger, president and CEO of SHRM. "There are serious HR and workforce issues that could undermine the nation's global competitiveness. And HR must determine how to meet these challenges."
Additionally, an AARP report, which was prepared by Towers Perrin, found that HR managers who may have once thought that older workers could be replaced by those fresh out of school will find themselves creating flexible work schedules, telecommuting options, training and education, phased retirement and "bridge jobs" expressly designed to encourage workers over 50 to remain on the job beyond the age at which they might otherwise retire.
Indeed, the report -- The Business Case for Workers Age 50+ -- states that 58% of HR managers responding to a 2005 AARP survey said that it is more difficult today than it was five years ago to find qualified job applicants.
How Companies Are Preparing For Potential Worker Shortage
|Succession plans/replacement charts||29%|
|Creating bridge employment||20%|
|Capture institutional memory/ |
"The image of manufacturing is unattractive to younger generations," explains OE Strategies' Miklos. "In the past you expected people who needed a job to feed their family would show up, and you would have plenty of people to select from. It's not so anymore."
Miklos notes that the need to retain older workers is greater than ever. The trick to retention -- offering enough incentives to stay.
"If you retire or step back in pay [by taking a part-time position in the company], that can affect the type of benefits that you get [compensation and health insurance]," according to Miklos. "Some companies have handled this by letting people retire and then bring them back. And I think if companies don't get on board with that, what we'll get is people retiring and going to a different organization."
Miklos also says that companies are going to have to think about cafeteria plans in terms of their degrees of full- and part-time positions.
What it comes down to is offering an engaged workplace. "If they have a voice, they make a difference, they're learning, and it's a worthwhile contribution both to their own skill sets and contribution to the company, workers will want to stay on board," Miklos says.