The Benefits of an Aging Workforce
Learn why 60 might be the new 40

As the economy continues to expand and improve across virtually every industry, employers are finding it increasingly difficult to hire. The number of baby boomers reaching retirement age—estimated to be almost 10,000 each day—makes the labor shortage even more acute.

In addition to their services, baby boomers who leave take with them institutional knowledge, operational know-how and informed best practices, which may be difficult or even impossible to replace. Such losses are likely to continue for at least several more years.

Despite spending almost $4,000 on average to fill an open position, employers are finding that newly hired, tech-savvy Gen Xers and millennials often jump ship in a matter of months, sometimes sooner. Studies have confirmed that these generations change jobs every six months or so, usually seeking higher salaries or more responsibility. They rarely take a job intending to make it a career.

More often, they use one job as the jumping off point for the next, always looking for the position that allows for the perfect work/life balance. In many cases, these job hoppers are not staying in one position for sufficient enough time to learn from the experienced elders who are soon to depart.

As a consequence, much of the unique knowledge and business awareness possessed by retiring employees will be lost. Given the difficulty in filling open positions with workers who plan to stay throughout their careers, it should be no surprise that employers across most industries are seeking to attract and retain older workers. If you have not already considered this potential pool of experience, perhaps you should.

An Older Workforce

According to Inc. magazine, more than 76,000,000 Americans will soon reach the age of 60 or older, and many plan to continue working, in most cases, out of necessity. The relaxing retirement that so many dreamed of has become unaffordable on the limited income from today’s insufficient pensions and recession-impacted 401(k) plans.

It is estimated that for an employee to be able to retire comfortably by the age of 67, they should have 10 times their annual earnings in retirement funds. Given commonplace life expectancies into the 80s and beyond, this is clearly a legitimate concern. In light of these realities, the greying of the workforce should come as no surprise. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 25 percent of all workers will be age 55 or older by 2020. In fact, employment of persons 65 or older has more than doubled in recent years. Consequently, multiple generations working alongside each other is an increasing phenomenon in most workplaces.

Better with Age

There have been numerous studies and articles over the last several years on the ways in which older workers benefit the workplace, many related to the experience and dedication they bring, as most have had a varied work history, utilizing a range of skills that younger generations lack. Therefore, they require less training for most jobs, and in fact, can actually be mentors or trainers to less experienced employees. In addition, they are generally less concerned with the work/life balance and time off that most Gen Xers and millennials seem to value most. They rarely take time off and are almost always punctual. If some of these seasoned employees that are used as mentors and are potential retirees were convinced to stay longer, not the least of the benefits would be curtailing the loss of institutional knowledge.

Lewis Lustman, a Los Angeles journalist and blogger on the workforce age issue, provided an excellent summary of the advantages to employing seasoned talent. He specifically noted that older employees are steady and reliable, highly-experienced and skilled, flexible, loyal, task-oriented, eager to learn new technologies and willing to mentor younger employees.

He also suggests that, in terms of fringe benefit costs, older workers may have lesser health insurance requirements than younger employees with families. Many are already on or are eligible for Medicare.

With the competitive labor market in the industry today, no construction company can afford to overlook employees that could help contribute to a successful operation, especially those that come ready to work. Perhaps your company could benefit from this hiring trend. Why not take a chance? Sixty may truly be the new 40.