Avoiding the Brain Drain—Retaining Aging Workers

Aging workers are staying in the workforce in greater numbers than ever before, and for more reasons than pay. Whether this trend is due to better overall health in later years, the rising age for Social Security benefits, or simply a desire to remain engaged by working, this trend can be good news for employers.

How can you help aging workers remain engaged and productive in your workforce?

Flexible work schedules: Many workers wish to continue working, but want a change from the standard work routine. Allowing them input on scheduling and providing flexible schedules can help them meet other important personal goals, like caring for an ailing parent or spouse, dealing with their own health issues, or having more control over their time. Consider varying start/stop times and hours of work, offering a compressed workweek allowing additional days off, teleworking, job sharing, or specialized programs, like the “snowbird” programs that allow workers to move between north and south locations seasonally.

Provide an on/off ramp:  Aging employees may want to ease or phase into retirement by reducing responsibilities or changing jobs. Can your organization support those kinds of requests? Do you offer part-time, project-based, or temporary assignments? Does your retirement plan allow them to start benefits when working less than full time? Can they remain covered under your health plan? Providing options can help you retain these workers while allowing them to step back their work time.

Support healthy lifestyles and accommodate for limitations: Increasing age can bring changes in overall health and stamina. Employers can help workers decrease modifiable health risks like tobacco use, physical inactivity, and poor nutrition through work-site health programs. Providing preventive screenings, either as a separate benefit or within your health plan, can identify health problems early. Having a safe, well designed workplace, and modifying job tasks to match the capacity and ergonomic needs of older workers, can help avoid injuries and ensure continued productivity.

Opportunity for development: Development remains an important driver for older workers, but studies show they receive less training annually than younger counterparts do. Providing training opportunities, whether focusing on renewing critical skills or learning new ones, can help keep older workers engaged. Reverse mentoring—where younger workers help them update technology skills—can be effective, too.

Older workers can bring maturity, dependability, and experience to your workforce. As a group, Baby Boomers have high levels of engagement and commitment to their employers. Retaining aging workers helps your organization keep its accumulated organizational knowledge about customers or your proprietary practices, while maintaining productivity.