Employers can alleviate labour challenges by supporting older employees who want to continue working through training and opportunities, says Lisa Taylor, an associate fellow at Toronto Metropolitan University’s National Institute on Ageing and founder and president of Challenge Factory and the Centre for Career Innovation.
A new report by Statistics Canada found among pre-retirees, more than half (55 per cent) said they’d continue working longer if they could work part time, while 49 per cent said they’d continue working if they could work fewer hours without affecting their pension.
More than two-fifths (43 per cent) said they’d be incentivized to continue working if it were less stressful or physically demanding, followed by the opportunity to do more interesting work (38 per cent) and pay increases (34 per cent).
“It makes no sense for us to be counting out up to a third of our lifespan as non-productive time and then saying, ‘Where are people who can work?’” says Taylor. “The advantage for employers is pretty clear — there’s a bunch of hidden talent that’s sitting right in their own backyard and is happy to work and has the skills that employers are looking for.”
As employees get closer to retirement age, they tend to have fewer career conversations with their managers and are less likely to receive training, she says, adding employers can benefit by reversing this trend.
“There’s no such thing as a best before date — employees are all unique and older workers are not a monolith, the same way that younger workers are not a monolith. There’s no rule that says that when you cross a certain number of years from being born, you’re all of a sudden not productive.”
Similarly, while some employers may be reluctant to invest in training for an employee who’s retiring in five to 10 years, Taylor notes the average tenure among all workers is fewer than two years.
“Older workers are just as capable of continuing to learn and, in fact, the reason they fall behind is because they’re not selected for training, not because they’re not capable of being trained. . . . Older workers are often counted out when new technology is introduced and then employers say their skills are out of date, but [the workers] were never actually trained on the tools.”
Ultimately, employers must overcome ageism in any decisions around the retention of older workers, she says. “Ageism is fundamentally something we internalize — it’s pervasive and there really can’t be any discussion about being able to maximize the full productivity of the [available] labour force until we recognize that ageism is at play in all of these conversations.”