by Joe Casey
There are strong crosscurrents swirling in today’s workplace that significantly impact older workers. People are living longer and many people expect to work longer than previous generations. But some people do not want to just continue to work in the same way forever. The key things they desire are greater flexibility and a pathway to winding down at their own pace. Almost half of workers surveyed plan to transition gradually into retirement, according to a Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies report published in June.
A Big Gap
Yet, there is a sizeable gap between what aging workers want and what many companies are currently offering. Only 24% of employees in the same Transamerica survey report that their companies offer some type of flexible work options to pre-retirees. Another quarter indicates that their companies don’t offer any help to employees in transitioning to retirement. Formal phased retirement programs remain rare with less than 10% of companies offering such programs, although informal gradual retirement arrangements are more often negotiated on an individual basis.
Winds of Change?
However, there are signs that the powerful demographic shifts underway and labor market dynamics are beginning to spur a change among progressive employers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects workers 65 and older as the fastest growing segment of the U.S. workforce, forecasting that it will comprise a larger share of the labor force than in recent decades.
Carol Hymowitz in Bloomberg has pointed out that skill shortages in some industries are leading some companies to develop innovative approaches to retaining older employees to leverage their specialized knowledge. Others are recognizing that figuring out how to leverage a large and growing segment of the workforce is simply smart business. The Chief HR Officer of a healthcare company recently observed that “If we’re not tapping into the whole workforce, we’re handicapping ourselves”.
Is your company ahead of the curve?
Conversation with a Change Agent
Paul Rupert, CEO of Respectful Exits, is a longtime advocate of flexible work options. Paul joined me on The Retirement Conversation podcast to share his observations and insights on future trends in the workplace and what his new organization is doing to provide a strong voice for aging workers. He offers savvy advice for individuals on how to approach negotiating an informal phased retirement – and guide for HR professionals whose companies want to gain an edge in retaining and attracting talented seasoned employees. You can listen to our conversation with Paul Rupert here.
Joe Casey is a former senior HR executive, who is in a second career as an executive coach and retirement coach.