There are a number of reasons why employers should ensure that workers over the age of 50 remain actively employed with their organization.

Nobody wants to lose good workers, and most in this age group have a wealth of experience within both their industry and their company. Many of them enjoy what they do and feel invested in the organization for which they work. They are also in a position to share what they’ve learned with younger employees.

Given all of this, it’s time for employers to consider developing an older workforce strategy.

Outside of certain narrow limitations—such as being unable to meet the physical requirements of the job—the decision on when an employee is going to retire has shifted to the individual. A number of factors come into play as individuals determine whether or not to stop working. They might need the money, especially with recent changes to Old Age Security eligibility. They might simply enjoy the company of colleagues. In many cases, the decision to hold off on retiring stems from the fact that they love what they do.

Offer options
Employers should have a menu of options for managing older workers, including job-sharing, flexible hours, telework that allows these employees to work from a remote location (including out of the country) or temporary project work for semi-retired individuals.

In one case, a company couldn’t find enough skilled bricklayers, so it asked a retired bricklayer to return to work. He had left because he was no longer physically able to do every aspect of the job. The company’s solution was to hire an assistant who literally did some of the heavy lifting, while the retiree did the more skilled part of the work. This type of job redesign is becoming more prevalent.

Establish policy
Create a policy that works for your organization and your employees. Include the following aspects:

• Survey your mature workers to determine their needs and wants, and incorporate as many of their suggestions as possible into your policy.

• Build flexibility into how you deal with older workers. Implement flexible part-time hours or job-sharing, for example.

• Teach older workers how to pass on their skills and knowledge to younger employees, and motivate them to facilitate this knowledge sharing by showing older workers how it will benefit their colleagues and the company.

• Analyze the link between your company’s business objectives, its HR strategy and its pension plan design. The Workplace Institute recently completed a survey of more than 570 CEOs, chief financial officers and vice-presidents of Canadian organizations, which showed that only 31% of employers believe their workplace pensions and retirement savings plans actually reflect key elements of the organization’s HR strategy, such as the need to engage employees and retain key talent.

According to a 2011 report from Statistics Canada, one-third of Canadians over age 55 were working in 2010, up from just over one-quarter in 1996. This trend represents an opportunity for organizations to capitalize on the skills and knowledge of older workers by accommodating their needs as much as possible through flexible HR policies. Grey is good—and, in a competitive economic environment, showing older workers the door is no longer an option.

Barbara Jaworski is CEO of the Workplace Institute.

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Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in Benefits Canada.

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