Why ‘older’​ workers are more important than ever

It’s time to rethink our attitude toward ‘older’ workers – and make the most of untapped talent.

We need older workers more than ever. Changing demographics in the workplace combined with a talent crisis means that this often overlooked group of people are critical to our economic success. 

United Nations data demonstrates that globally, the population aged 65 and over is growing faster than all other age groups. And as we’re living longer, we’re working longer, too. Many people simply have to do this – and many also very much want to.

However, there are barriers in the way. AARP research shows that more than three-quarters of older workers are experiencing ageism in the workplace at rates that are much higher than ever before.

Older workers are hidden workers

Older workers are part of a huge group of ‘hidden workers’ – the millions of people who want to work and possess many of the skills that employers seek, if companies could only find them. Accenture and Harvard Business School’s Project on Managing the Future of Work explored the phenomenon of ‘hidden workers’ and highlighted how hiring more of these people can help close the skills gap which is a challenge for so many organizations. In fact, companies hiring hidden workers are 36% less likely to face talent and skills shortages.

 When it comes to hiring and retaining ‘older’ workers, it’s time for us to overcome our biases. ‘Older’ workers can bring valuable experience to our organizations and contribute to cultures of inclusion and understanding.  Some organizations make a conscious effort to go after this group of hidden workers. They do this in a variety of ways, such as changing how jobs are advertised and ensuring that role descriptions and selection methods are inclusive. Some also target older workers with flexible schedules, good healthcare benefits, and upskilling opportunities. Personalized packages are important: for example, good healthcare benefits may be more important to some older workers than an annual bonus.

 Are we ready for the 60-year career?

Recently, I was honored to contribute to the Century Lives podcast from the Stanford Center on Longevity. The center’s aim is to accelerate and implement scientific discoveries, technological advances, behavioral practices, and social norms so that century-long lives are healthy and rewarding. Season 2 of the Century Lives podcast explores how the future of work can be redesigned so that careers in the age of longevity are not just longer – they’re also more productive, balanced, and meaningful. 

The episode I contributed to, Work After 50, examines how this undervalued segment of the workforce will be a key building block of the economy of the future. It highlights some innovative solutions, too. Have a listen and let me know what you think – I’d love to hear from you. 

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