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With many baby boomers nearing retirement age, employers must explore a variety of options to meet their staffing needs. One strategy is to work toward retaining the employees you have now-especially the older, long-term employees.
See also: Find a job that's right for you.
Retaining older employees must be supported by the organizational culture. If the focus is primarily on retirement rather than on work options, a culture change may be needed:
Provide retirement and "unretirement" planning. In addition to traditional retirement topics, discuss the option of working in retirement. Also, flexible work options may meet your business needs as well as address your workers' needs for work/life balance.
Evaluate incentives for early retirement. Many companies pushed early retirement options when they needed to downsize. However, these options may no longer suit the business needs of the organization.
Reward those who stay. Don't wait until someone is retiring to let them know how much they are valued. But it's important to increase incentives for those who stay by recognizing their contributions.
Physical Capabilities May Change
Some jobs require heavy lifting, standing or sitting for long periods, or include other strenuous tasks. Organizations may help keep their older employees (and other employees as well) by looking at major job redesign:
- Reassign tasks to accommodate physical needs.
- Use equipment to ease heavy lifting.
- Streamline work systems.
Employees Desire Flexibility
Many older adults no longer want the traditional, "either-or" choice of full-time work vs. full-time retirement. Flexible work arrangements allow them to balance home, work, and caregiving roles. Some long-term employees may choose to move to a role that requires fewer hours, less stress, or decreased responsibilities.
- Communicate: Make sure employees know about the flexible work options available to them.
- Add a phased retirement program. Such programs allow employees who are nearing retirement age to opt for a reduced work schedule for a specified period of time. Not only does this allow the employee to make better plans for retirement, but it allows the organization to arrange for transfer of knowledge to other employees.
- Provide innovative scheduling, part-time opportunities, or options for working from different geographical locations at different times of the year.
- Explore contract work options. Employers may retain the knowledge and skills of their retirees by inviting them back as consultants and advisors.
- Redefine roles to match employees' motivations. It's possible that mature, skilled workers may want to reduce their level of responsibility with no loss of commitment to the job.
Attitudes Are Important
Ageist remarks and discriminatory practices are tremendous barriers to continued employment. Whether overt or subtle, age bias must be removed to enable older adults to remain in the workplace as valued and experienced employees.
- Provide training on age discrimination and ageism.
- Audit HR policies and practices annually to ensure they are nondiscriminatory.
- Hold managers accountable for ageism and age discrimination.
- Engage employees throughout their careers
Employers need to keep employees engaged in order to retain them as viable contributors. If employees have been passed over for promotion, or have not been rewarded for performance, then they may not be contributing at an appropriate level.
- Offer advancement through promotions, regardless of age.
- Have opportunities for lateral transfers.
- Provide ongoing training to all employees.
- Make sure that rewards and consequences are in place for performance/nonperformance.
- Provide feedback and coaching to employees of all ages.
Many U.S. companies are facing a significant loss of talent and institutional knowledge in key areas. While the impact of this trend will vary across industries and job categories, employers will be able to avoid the drain by encouraging today's 50+ workers to stay at work longer.
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