Older Workers in the Workforce and the Impact

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Older Workers

Just in case you were questioning your decision to work until a little later in life, don’t worry, you’re not alone.  We have the numbers to prove it.

Over the last ten years, there has been a steady increase in the number of older workers in the workforce.  With the youngest of the baby boomers just turning 55, that trend is almost certain to grow for the foreseeable future.

The question is how will this movement affect the way we do business?  How will this impact employers, and will workers in this age range easily find jobs if they want them?

Some of the most knowledgeable people out there in any field are well into their 60’s and 70’s.  And we depend on them for their extensive expertise in every industry across the country.

Why Do We see a Rise in Older Workers in the Workforce?

When we look at these trends, the easy answer is to say the rise is due to baby boomers getting older.  No doubt, this is part of the equation as this generation has been hitting retirement age for the last ten years.  The youngest however are just turning 55, and beginning to impact the growth we are seeing.  Even though boomers are a significant part of the overall rise, they definitely are not the entire story.

Another impact driving this demographic to continue working is an incomplete recovery from the great recession.  Many people simply are still struggling to get back to their pre-recession level of savings, hence are required to continue working.  While earnings numbers have rebounded nicely, the median family net worth is still significantly less than pre-recession levels as we can see in this graphic.

Also driving the rise of older workers in the workforce is that more people are staying healthy until later in life.  Many of these people aren’t working for the paycheck, but because they want to work.  With multiple studies showing a real benefit to working past traditional retirement age, this is a good trend.  Both mental and physical health stand to improve for people who work later into life.

Related: Find a New Career at 40

Challenges for Workers Over 50

While we’d like to think that age discrimination no longer has a place in the world, that’s not the case.  Older workers in many cases will face some common stereotypes.  Those include an inability to learn as quickly, being more costly, longevity issues and the list could go on.

So it will be the job of this generation to break down some of those misconceptions.  In a fast-paced technological world, they must prove they are flexible and open to regular, fast-paced change.  They need to show employers that some of the increased dollar cost in wages, healthcare, and vacation time, are off-set by knowledge, loyalty, and quality work product.  And with time, they need employers to see that many employees 55+ are not short-timers, but still have many years to add value.

Related: Why and How to Change Careers

The Knowledge Capital Problem

One of the most significant benefits to older workers who’ve been at a job for a long time is their experience.  Baby boomers were the last generation who’s norm was to work at a company for the long-term.  That means many companies most experienced employees are entering this age group.  Even when hiring someone new, those older applicants may be able to take over jobs with deep learning curves more effectively.

This significant benefit also represents the highest risk.  Will these workers be able to transfer all of their knowledge to the next generation effectively?  With the 18-50-year-olds holding on average 12 jobs throughout their careers, in-depth knowledge is becoming hard to retain.  That trend only gets worse with the youngest employees.  The Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates workers from 25 to 34 will change jobs every three years.  This means the wisdom transferred from life-time company employees, then stands to be lost as these younger employees hop jobs.

What Older Workers Bring to the Table

If you’re a potential employer reading this article, let us make the argument for seriously considering any candidate over 50.  The benefits far outweigh the costs, and here’s why:

Experience – We already hit this one above, but it’s worth repeating.  You can’t find deep experience everywhere, and it can drastically change the success of an organization.

Reliability – Older workers have proven to be more reliable, and more loyal to their employers.  It’s a trait that’s built into many people in the baby boomer generation.  

Younger workers are more likely to change jobs and take sick time.  According to Statista.com, people age 46+ far less sick time than their younger counterparts.  For workers 18-30, a hefty 86% took at least five days sick leave in 2017.  Compare that to 59% of workers 46-60 years old, and only 56% of workers 61 and older.

Quality – Another intangible is their attention to detail and quality of work.  Younger workers have less attention span and many times other priorities in life.  Social media and other social commitments command an unbelievable amount of their attention, even when on the job.  

Older workers don’t take part in these activities as much, and over time have gained an appreciation for a higher quality work product.

Productivity – There is some truth to higher salaries and medical costs as we age, but you need to factor in productivity to see the whole picture.  Not only do you reclaim some of these costs through lower sick leave rates, but more experience allows for faster completion of tasks.  Whether that means closing deals faster, or closing the books more efficiently, it all adds to the bottom line.

Industries and Occupations

When you look at the numbers, you can see there is still a large population of older workers in many industry verticals.  With education and health services easily making up the most significant number.  Also notable is that in almost all categories, the total of 55+ workers is higher than any other ten-year grouping of younger workers.  No doubt the numbers decrease when moving into the ’60s, but there’s no shortage, and it’s just going to get bigger.

Many occupations also have a high number of older workers, with management jobs being the most likely.  Not surprising given these workers have had the longest time to climb the corporate ladder.

Supporting Organizations

The trend is moving in the right direction, with more and more organizations signing on to help.  Typically for this age group, one of the leading advocates is the AARP.  They have multiple initiatives to assist in this area.  Both the Senior Community Service Employment Program and Back to Work 50+ program are there to help people retool and find jobs at this age.

Add to this entire job search companies like RetirementJobs.com who focus on connecting companies and workers over 50.

If you’ve lost your job, and need assistance finding a new one, these organizations are the place to start.

With all of these forces running in the same direction, older workers have great resources in their job search.

The Bottom Line

As the population continues to age, we can expect workers over the age of 50 to become a more critical part of the workforce.  Not only will we need these workers to transfer expertise, but we will need their work product.

The good news here is that many people in this generation need to stay employed longer to make up for lost savings.  Hopefully, this knowledge will give them the leverage to command the jobs, higher salaries, and benefits they deserve.


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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