With the baby boomer generation reaching retirement, how will companies adapt to the upcoming labour shortage and the new demographics of a mature workforce?

The 3rd Annual Summit on the Mature Workforce, held at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto on Nov. 21, 2007, brought together a variety of industry speakers and delegates to examine the impending labour shortage triggered by the retirement of the baby boomer generation and what companies can do to prepare.

The issue of the “incredible shrinking workforce” has recently become a hot topic, notes Linda Sims, business editor, CTV, and summit moderator. Attracting and retaining mature workers is now more than just a theoretical issue; it’s becoming a strategic business issue. “How do you replace all that knowledge, that information, that experience, that’s about to walk out the door?” she adds.

Susan Williams, assistant deputy minister, Alberta Employment, Immigration and Industry, notes that while the labour shortage is a growing concern across Canada, it’s already hit hard in Alberta. The Alberta government is therefore considering policy changes and strategies to encourage mature workers to fill the employment gap. “The fact is that older workers offer invaluable expertise and knowledge, hiring them makes good sense and they are, as an imperative, part of the solution,” says Williams. The Alberta government has released a discussion paper on the topic and is soliciting feedback until mid-December.

The scope of the labour shortage extends far beyond Canada, though. Terry Bogyo, director of corporate planning for WorkSafeBC, notes that one million people turn 60 each month on a worldwide basis. Furthermore, approximately 70 million people will retire in the developed world over the next 25 years, to be replaced by only five million people.

Generally speaking, people are healthier and are living longer than ever before, which means that many will continue to work past age 65 or return to work after retirement. Mature workers will represent the largest portion of the workforce in the not-too-distant future and employers should plan their HR strategies accordingly—particularly if, as Bogyo suggests, “70 is the new 55.”

But if organizations want to be successful in attracting and retaining mature workers, they’ll need to adapt to the shifting demographics. Mature employees have different needs than other generations, notes Linda Smith, executive vice-president, senior partner and regional director of Fleishman-Hillard, speaking on behalf of Carol Orsborn(author of Boom: Marketing to the Ultimate Power Consumer: The Baby-Boomer Woman). For example, they’re typically looking for flexible work arrangements within a welcoming environment. And since they’re in “career count-down” mode, money is often a motivating factor—but not necessarily, if the work is stressful or involves taking on additional responsibilities.

Developing an HR strategy that supports mature workers also means understanding the needs and values of the different generations in the workforce, and overcoming any “generation gaps” or intergenerational issues.

The summit was chaired by Barbara Jaworski, founder of the Workplace Institute, and also included the presentation of the 4th Annual Best Employers Awards For 50 Plus Canadians.

To comment on this story, email alyssa.hodder@rci.rogers.com.

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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