Industryweek 36029 Mercer Age Study 1

Let’s Not Forget the Value of Experienced Workers

Sept. 26, 2019
Consulting firm Mercer offers ways to optimize an experienced workforce.

While it’s impossible to escape advice on how to attract and retain young workers, which is necessary, often the value of older, experienced workers is overlooked.

Companies that actively leverage their older, experienced workforce will be best positioned for the future of work, according to Mercer’s recently published report, "Next Stage: Are You Age Ready?"

“With labor force size, participation rate and productivity so closely tied to business and economic growth, the experienced workforce is a source of talent and competitive advantage that employers need to embrace now,” said Pat Milligan, global leader of Mercer’s Multinational Client Group, in a statement.

“To be ‘age-ready’, however, requires a thoughtful and careful analysis of this workforce segment as well as a change in mindset as to how experienced workers truly add value to organizations,” Milligan added.

Mercer finds experienced workers are particularly valuable to employers in that they often:

  • Lower costs because they are less likely to leave
  • As supervisors, tend to retain, develop and engage more junior employees and decrease voluntary leave on the teams they manage
  • Increase the productivity of those around them through knowledge sharing
  • Strengthen group cohesion, collaboration and resiliency
  • Enable innovation and strengthen customer connection

However, research has shown that for many employers, experienced workers are largely ignored or misperceived. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Future of Jobs report, only 4% of respondents said they planned on investing in experienced workers as part of their workforce strategy.

Ignoring this group is risky. By 2040 the average life expectancy is predicted to be 80 years, up from 56 in 1966 and 72 in 2016. As a result, many people are working longer for a variety of reasons, including financial necessity, purpose, and social/intellectual engagement.

“For employers, managing a rapidly growing older workforce is a challenge without precedent,” said Rick Guzzo,  co-Founder of Mercer’s Workforce Sciences Institute. “In the U.S. rates of working among older individuals have been rising and will continue to rise, with the highest growth rates among those aged 70-74 and 75-79. Given this reality, organizations that are more ‘age-ready’ than their competitors will likely have a significant strategic advantage.”

To assist organizations in becoming ‘age-ready’, Mercer has developed a list of 10 ways to optimize an experienced workforce.

  1. Collect and analyze your age-profile data to explore demographic and skills pinch points.
  2. Develop and implement people and careers strategies that embrace the experienced workforce.
  3. Understand what impact your organization’s retirement plan design has on the trajectory of retirement readiness and labor flow.
  4. Initiate conversations with experienced employees about how they might work differently.
  5. Examine and tackle how ageism might manifest in your organization — analyzing pay, bonuses, performance, promotion and recruitment statistics through a lens focused on aging.
  6. Develop a lifelong learning attitude that positions people to embrace jobs of the future.
  7. Measure productivity levels across different age and position cohorts in your organization.
  8. Implement an effective flexible-working strategy.
  9. Develop and implement a program offering support for those who have caregiver responsibilities.
  10. Create and sustain an inclusive culture that supports and enables your experienced-worker strategy.

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