10 Steps to an Age-Ready Work Culture

More than ever before, highly experienced people aged 50 and over are remaining in the workforce, willing and able to contribute to business success. As people live longer, some choose to continue working to satisfy a desire to contribute, learn and connect. Many more don’t have a choice, because even as our life spans have increased, our ability to pay for our extra years has not. Weakening pension systems, inadequate savings and low interest rates have left many experienced workers without the income required to retire. Mercer’s analysis of this phenomenon shows that this gap stood at $70 trillion globally in 2015 and, based on a 5% average annual growth, is projected to reach $400 trillion by 2050. These wide gaps will keep many experienced workers in the workforce well beyond the traditional retirement age.

The 50+ workforce is huge and diverse, but common biases affect how they are seen and leveraged in the workforce. Mercer attempts to dispel those biases in a new report, “Next Stage: Are You Age-Ready?”. Did you know that workers over 50 represent the only segment of the labor force that is growing in many industrialized countries? There are important benefits to employers. These older, experienced workers can lower turnover costs because they themselves are less likely to leave voluntarily, and, as supervisors, they tend to reduce voluntary turnover in their teams. They improve the productivity of those around them through knowledge-sharing and help develop and enhance the career progress of their direct reports and mentees. They enable innovation and customer connectivity, and strengthen group cohesion, collaboration and resiliency. And age-diverse teams offer better value all around.

To assist organizations in becoming ‘age-ready’, Mercer has developed a list of 10 ways to optimize an experienced workforce. This list is intended as a starting point to begin the organizational dialogue about the future of work as it relates to tapping this important and growing talent pool.

  1. Collect and analyze your age-profile data to explore demographic and skills pinch points.
  2. Develop and implement people and careers strategies that embrace the experienced workforce.
  3. Understand what impact your organization’s retirement plan design has on the trajectory of retirement readiness and labor flow.
  4. Initiate conversations with experienced employees about how they might work differently.
  5. Examine and tackle how ageism might manifest in your organization — analyzing pay, bonuses, performance, promotion and recruitment statistics through a lens focused on aging.
  6. Develop a lifelong learning attitude that positions people to embrace jobs of the future.
  7. Measure productivity levels across different age and position cohorts in your organization.
  8. Implement an effective flexible-working strategy.
  9. Develop and implement a program offering support for those who have caregiver responsibilities.
  10. Create and sustain an inclusive culture that supports and enables your experienced-worker strategy.

Benefits professionals have an important role to play in creating an age-ready work culture. Consider how your benefit programs influence the demographic flow in the organization, and whether they adequately cover the changing needs of experienced workers. For example, do you offer benefits, counseling and education to improve health and financial literacy, including pre-retirement courses and support for caregivers? It’s also important to communicate the offerings clearly and consistently (with on-site support, online materials, email blasts, videos, etc.) so employees can make informed decisions about their benefits. Gather feedback through survey or focus groups to make sure your benefits are appealing to all demographics – and act quickly on the feedback received. In today’s tight labor market, employers can’t afford to overlook, or underserve, any valuable contributors.

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