Increasingly, when people turn 65, they aren’t interested in a gold watch and a rocking chair. Instead, they want a desk with a fully-loaded laptop. HR professionals need to be prepared to help retirees return to the workforce.
Burt Mustin, who passed away in 1977 at age 92, appeared in over 150 films and TV shows. What makes this so astounding is that he didn’t start acting until he was 67. Today, a growing number of seniors are following a similar path, seeking new careers and job opportunities after retirement. According to a Rand Corporation study released earlier this year, seniors are transitioning to post-retirement life in non-traditional ways—25.7% are staying in full- or part-time jobs past age 70, and 16.9% are leaving and then reentering the workforce.
Recently, entrepreneur and author Chip Conley wrote about the concept of the “modern elder,” the older adult who is “full of wisdom and curiosity…searching for meaning, not retirement.” He says, “Modern elders have a growth mindset and are often as much an intern as a mentor.”
Older workers bring tremendous experience to the workplace. HR can help create a welcoming environment for them by:
· Not stereotyping people because of their age. If they have the skills, abilities, and knowledge to handle the responsibilities of a particular job, there is no reason not to consider them for it.
· Investing in training for older workers. As with younger workers, training enhances the potential for success and effectiveness. Don’t assume it will be a waste of resources to train workers just because they are older.
· Not assuming that older workers will want high salaries.
· Considering partnerships with organizations such as AARP that represent and know retirees.
· Realizing that older workers generally want to make a difference and structuring their role accordingly.
· Developing a selection process that evaluates job candidates based on the person’s knowledge, skills, abilities, and fit with the company’s culture.
· Focusing on recruiting a diverse talent pool.
· Not limiting recruiting to colleges or other schools.
· Not requiring graduation dates or other information on applications designed to uncover a candidate’s age.
· Connecting or partnering them with younger workers for an exchange of ideas and education.
At the same time, you can help retain older workers by offering flexible schedules and part-time positions, allowing them to move to less stressful or physically demanding positions as needed or requested, and having a formal phased-retirement program in place.
The Rand study states, “There is growing interest among policymakers to find ways for people to work longer. As younger cohorts live longer, individuals might need to extend their working lives to maintain their living standards.” Additionally, with more older people working longer, it would reduce the financial burdens on government programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Policies designed to encourage people to work longer might be effective, says the study, if “they consider the substantial heterogeneity in retirement pathways and how they are related to individual characteristics.”