Why Delayed Retirement Is Good for Today's Employers

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John Heins

Even before our country began slipping into a recession, all signs were pointing to an increasing number of mature workers delaying retirement. Given the fact that life expectancies are at an all-time high and retirement savings are too low, many Baby Boomers were already choosing to, or were required to, work long past traditional retirement age. Today’s economic crisis has simply put more pressure on Baby Boomers who are likely to outlive their savings, or who have become victims of the failing financial market. The very nature of "retirement" is changing—and this should be making human resources executives very happy.

According to the Department of Labor, 75 percent of future jobs will be knowledge-based. But in the next decade, 70 percent of the workforce will not be college graduates. The economy’s shift toward knowledge-based jobs and away from physical labor will favor mature workers who have established a more robust resume.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a worker shortage of nearly 10 million people by 2010. At the same time, it projects that workers age 55 and older will grow at four times the rate of the labor force overall.

The mature workforce stands to make quite an impact on U.S. employers because most will remain in the workforce, albeit on their own terms. These mature workers will reshape their retirement, requiring employers to show creativity, flexibility and resourcefulness in attracting and retaining them. Employers today must determine how to capture these workers’ talents, skills and value, but on their schedules.

While organizations from the AARP to the U.S. government are busy addressing these trends, lobbying for pension plan reforms and phased retirement programs, most companies have yet to begin leveraging this increasingly key group of workers.

Retaining mature workers through some form of phased retirement or traditional re-employment saves organizations from watching valuable talent walk out the door, taking their wisdom, manpower and worse, their value, with them. At the same time, utilizing mature workers in a different role, often part-time or just-in-time, helps minimize costs for the organization. This also gives workers who are just entering the workforce the opportunity to absorb the valuable knowledge and experience mature workers can pass along.

Human resources executives must embrace the notion of employing people based on the value they add to the organization, not on when they punch in and out on the time clock. This new mindset will position companies as an employer of choice now and in the future.