Common practice dictates that once we reach the age of 65 our productive days in a working role come to an abrupt end. Many senior citizens are cut loose to begin living the last third of their lives as retirees without consideration for their actual ability to perform effectively.
But a major development is causing employers to reevaluate retirement at age 65 and more closely consider the possibility of extending the working life of aging employees. The baby boomer generation is beginning to enter retirement and the prospect of 75 million Americans exiting the workforce over the next twenty years is a scary reality.
Corporations and businesses will need to realign their employment practices if they hope to remain competitive. They cannot afford to overlook the highly skilled, experienced, and generally happy-to-work source of labor that senior citizens will represent. Here are some changes we can expect businesses to make in the coming years.
An end to forced retirement. There are jobs that are physically demanding and require retirement at an early age. However, for the majority of jobs, instead of an automatic process, companies should regularly evaluate an employee's ability and skills against the requirements of the job. If the determination is positive, staying on the job can benefit both the employer and the employee. If not, both parties understand a rational decision has been made rather than a vague age-based determination.
Gray is the way. Age discrimination is an unfortunate reality in the working world. However, with an increasing number of employees departing and no proportionate increase in employable candidates, companies that succumb to age discrimination will suffer. Gray hair will be overlooked when the qualified candidate wearing it is the best option available. Seniors deserve equal consideration for a job based objectively on their ability and experience.
Mentoring programs. Senior workers have a wealth of knowledge and experience learned over years on the job. To better prepare for the future employers will start tapping this resource with older employees mentoring younger new hires. This will require patience on both sides because differing perspectives may cause friction, but the benefit far outweighs any short term discomfort.
Job sharing. Many jobs can be effectively shared between workers, which allows older employees to work fewer hours without sacrificing their valuable experience. As long as there can be a clean hand off of responsibilities and projects, job sharing is a viable option that increases flexibility and can add to the overall satisfaction of senior workers.
Initial interview by phone. One way to avoid faulty first impressions based on a candidate's age is to conduct the first interview via phone. With the focus on real qualifications and actual experience, unintended bias due to age can be avoided. At the end of that initial discussion, if the candidate has proved his or her qualifications for the job and earned the right to meet face to face, age considerations should take a backseat to relevant skills.
Many senior citizens are capable of working well beyond the age of 65 and ignoring this will be a costly mistake. A Nielsen study of manufacturing executives found nearly half are encouraging workers to delay early retirement. Businesses that succeed will be those that implement programs that recognize and support aging employee needs and thereby utilize a talented labor force that is ready and willing to work.
Dave Bernard is not yet retired but has begun his due diligence to plan for a satisfying retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only the Beginning.