The New Generation of Older Workers

Chances are you are a baby boomer; roughly anyone between the ages of 40 and 60 fits that category. Over 40% of the workforce in the United States are considered boomers, and the leading edge of them ó those who were born right after the Second World War ó are already planning to reduce their involvement in the workplace. Some may simply retire, but others are trying to work out some arrangement so that they can work fewer hours each week but still stay with their employers. A recent survey by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University shows that 28% of boomers say they will work part-time after retirement because they need the money or want the mental stimulation. Many boomers will try a different profession. Some will start a business or go back to school. Most will want to remain active and involved in some kind of work. The workplace will need them. As we grower older as a nation, and as fewer skilled people come out of our universities, retired baby boomers will form a core of experience, knowledge, and skill that will be invaluable to sustaining many organizations. Already, forward-looking companies are finding ways to use retirees. HR Block utilizes thousands of retirees each year for several months to complete tax returns, and consulting firms find them useful for dealing with complex client issues and for educating younger consultants. Some organizations are using retirees to educate younger employees about past research or supply these newer workers with information that will enhance current practices. Transferring critical knowledge is becoming a significant way to make use of retirees. The workplace, however, is struggling to change old paradigms about work. Many firms encourage older workers to retire, believing them to be change resistant or not energetic enough for the rapidly changing workplaces of today. Many boomers are victims of these prejudices and frequently find themselves feeling inadequate. BusinessWeek, in its June 27, 2005, edition, devoted an entire issue to exploring the issues of older workers and health, productivity, knowledge, problem-solving, and energy. In a series of articles, this issue details research which indicates that older workers can be as creative and productive as younger workers, and often are more loyal. Older workers have more accumulated knowledge than younger workers and make well-reasoned and sound judgments based on a lifetime of learning. They can fill critical mid- and senior-level management positions, serve on boards of directors and advisory boards, and often act as lecturers at universities struggling to find enough professors. Whenever I am heading to a speaking or client engagement, I try to meet

Art Koff, founder

Article Continues Below

of RetiredBrains.com

interesting local people or go to organizations where exciting things are happening. I was recently in Chicago, speaking at an EMA event, and decided to spend some time with Art Koff. Art has been a pioneer in educating both retirees and employers on the issues and benefits of employing retirees. I had met Art once before and had been very interested in his passion for getting the retired back to work. So I arranged to meet Art for breakfast, where he brightened a cloudy morning with conversation and thoughts about retirees and work. When I first met Art a year or so ago, we had chatted about his efforts to connect more retired people to jobs. But I hadn’t realized how much effort he had put into developing an infrastructure to help retirees find jobs. In fact, Art is the cheerleader for the retired. Art is over 70 but looks as if he were in his 60s. He is proof that age does not equate to senility or physical incapacity, as he is still an entrepreneur and a very active cheerleader for the retired. He sees his mission as that of creating connections between organizations that need skilled workers and one of the prime sources of those skills ó those who are retired. He is constantly encouraging both the elderly and employers to take a closer look at each other. Art has started a job board for the retired called RetiredBrains.com, written a guide to working after retirement called You’re Retiring, Now What?, tirelessly promotes the retired as workers to organizations, and works to influence opinion about retirees. The Reitredbrians.com site takes job postings from organizations that are interested in hiring retirees and exposes them to thousands of such people. The site is growing fast and lists more and more jobs that are open to retired persons. It also lists thousands of retirees who are looking for work. The site also contains advice for retirees on how to look for jobs, how to write their resume, and improve their employability. He also provides information to employers about retirees and their capabilities. While Art was a pioneer in getting retirees back to work, others are also jumping into an area that will grow rapidly over the next decade. Richard Katz, a Los Angeles consultant and expert in working with the Baby Boomer generation, publishes a free newsletter aimed at Baby Boomer job seekers and employers. This free newsletter, NetAssets, is a wealth of information pertaining to Baby Boomers, employment, and issues of ageism. Jeff Taylor, founder of Monster.com, has moved on and is founding a new company focused on the 50- to 100-year-old population called Eons, Inc. So far, there are no other details on what this organization will offer, but it is interesting to see that this visionary who led the world in developing the job board is now turning his focus to the aging Baby Boomers. Recruiters should be actively including retirees in their sourcing activities and should be encouraging their hiring managers to consider these older workers. After all, as more than 70 million people leave the job market there will be many skill and knowledge gaps that these healthy, mentally alert, highly experienced people will be able to fill ó given the chance.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.

Topics

3 Comments on “The New Generation of Older Workers

  1. Kevin:

    We are in need of a new word to describe that segment of our society still at work beyond the age when societal norms would expect one to be ‘retired.’

    Typically I think of my parents’ generation when I think of retirees . . . which meant, in the case of my father:

    – Not returning to his workplace of 27 years
    – Initiating the flow of payments from his DB plan
    – Not actively seeking any paying work (instead, spending time in volunteer activities)
    – Describing his status to others in his peer group as ‘retired’

    It’s worthy to note that he made this decision at age 58 (my current age, being born in year one of the Baby Boom). Like many of my peers, I don’t intend to ‘return to my workplace of X years’ having left it to start a consulting business. However, given a 60+ hour work week – actively in pursuit of paying work (in addition to the volunteer stuff I’ve done for years), I certainly don’t consider myself a ‘retiree’ in even the loosest interpretation of the word. When asked by others (usually someone 20 or more years my junior) ‘are you retired?’ I typically respond ‘are you kidding?’

    That being said, I’m glad to see some farsighted individuals paying attention to making the multi-generational workplace more viable for all – Boomers, X’ers, Y’ers, Echo’s, etc. Thanks for giving voice to an issue that will come back to haunt us if we don’t take the right steps now.

  2. As the owner of RetiredBrains.com I very much enjoyed reading Kevin’s article.

    I just wanted to make one thing clear to employers seeking to hire seniors. We do not charge for postings whether they be for full-time, part-time or temporary jobs as long as the position is appropriate for a senior or ‘Retired Brain.’

  3. ‘Retreaded’. A term common among companies that recruit military veterans, especially those with 20+ years of valuable experience, reentering the job market as young as 37.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *