Looking at the Aging Workforce through a New Lens

When hiring managers mobilize older workers, it’s a win-win.

Many businesses are facing a critical shortage of experienced professionals, with industries such as accounting citing lack of skilled personnel as the No. 1 challenge for three quarters in a row. Much of the conversation is centered on the skills gap, high retirement rates for so-called boomers and the inability to find the skills employers are looking for in the younger workforce.

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By 2020, more than 50 percent of the workforce will be over the age of 55.

What employers must realize is that even though boomers are retiring from the office, they aren’t leaving the workforce.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 40 percent of people ages 55 and older were working or actively looking for work in 2014. That number, known as a labor force participation rate, is expected to increase fastest for the oldest segments of the population – most notably, people ages 65 to 74 and 75 and older – through 2024.

In contrast, participation rates for most other age groups in the labor force aren’t projected to change much over the 2014 to 2024 decade. Another study from Prudential found that one-third of independent contractors are boomers – a subset of the economy gearing up to be a mighty and powerful force.

For hiring managers to attract top talent, they must view the aging workforce through a new lens. Today, we consider those 65-plus to be “older” and less skilled or capable. But we must shift our perspective on age.

The average life expectancy for a man is 80 years old, and for a woman, the average is 85 years. A 50 year old, therefore, is no longer a “senior.”

A shift in perspective

By 2020, more than 50 percent of the workforce will be over the age of 55. We have CEOs and politicians in their 70s and still at the top of their game.

In fact, recent research on the aging brain found that past the age of 50, our brains get better at problem-solving and decision making, skills that will be crucial as AI becomes more prevalent.

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Vintage employees have a high level of job commitment, employer loyalty and diverse knowledge.

In 2017, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 18,376 claims of age discrimination and found that 65 percent of older workers say age is a barrier to getting a job.

Employers that recognize this challenge, and the opportunity that comes with hiring “vintage” employees, are finding new talent with a high level of job commitment, employer loyalty, openness to mentor a younger generation of professionals and a diverse knowledge base that can be applied to a variety of business challenges.

Let skills speak for themselves

The process of hiring a vintage employee is not the same as any other job candidate, but organizations like Work at Home Vintage Experts (WAHVE) are dedicated to carefully matching older, qualified professionals to the talent needs of companies. They help employers overcome the preconceived notion of an older workforce, using blind hiring practices to let competencies and skills speak for themselves.

When hiring managers mobilize the older workforce, it’s a win-win. Companies get highly skilled workers with the talent they need, and retiring workers get to continue their career.

This article originally appeared on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation blog and was republished with permission.

Sharon Emek is founder, CEO and President of Work At Home Vintage Experts (WAHVE).

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