Don't Count Out Aging Workers

Dave Bernard

If you lose your job in middle age or later, you may suddenly find yourself in dire straits. When the pink slip comes, it does not matter how many years you have put in or how dedicated you might be to the company. Whether the reason is reorganization, right-sizing or offshoring, aging employees can find themselves suddenly out of work and in search of an increasingly elusive next job.

Finding a new position is often especially difficult for older workers. Individuals 55 and older have consistently experienced longer periods of unemployment than younger workers.

For some older workers there will not be another job similar to what they are accustomed to. They may have to settle for a lower paying option or a diminished role with lesser responsibilities. Others will decide to take an early retirement, hopefully having saved enough to maintain their current lifestyle.

However, employers also lose when experienced workers leave the company. As older employees depart for retirement, companies are experiencing a brain drain of talent. The 50-somethings who have been on staff for decades have experienced challenges and learned how to fix them. They know better than junior workers how to get things done in the corporate environment of politics, egos and competing agendas. Years on the job have enabled them to build efficient networks throughout the organization that help them bypass delays that others new to the role may have to wade through. Many older workers know best how to get the job done given the constraints of the organization.

The aging workforce is already a concern for some employers. A wave of retirements at companies with significant numbers of older workers could have a significant impact on daily operations. Although a lot of young people are looking for work, employers wonder how qualified they will be to step into unique roles previously held by experienced employees. Smart employers will get their long-term employees approaching retirement to teach younger employees the necessary skills so that business can continue without interruption.

The retirement of baby boomers will be welcome news to qualified younger workers waiting to advance their careers. The leadership positions younger employees would like to fill are often occupied by older employees. The decision that employers must make is not easy. They could stick with the older, proven employee who knows the ropes and has a successful track record or bring in some new blood to keep the company moving forward.

Employers cannot necessarily count on their most experienced workers to stick around. Now that many of the oldest baby boomers are in their 60s, many will decide to leave their current employer for a new industry, a new geographic location, to work part-time or volunteer.

Aging baby boomers heading into retirement will create a vacuum of talent for the companies they leave behind. New hires will have to learn the ropes starting from scratch. It will take time to grow into the roles and establish the connections their predecessors built over years. But these new employees will inevitably leave their own stamp on the workforce, just like the baby boomers did.

Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be". Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.