Tides of Change: An Aging Workforce in a Modern World
Times, they are a changin’. Did you know that according to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 10,000 baby boomers in the United States will turn 65 every day until the year 2030? An increase in retirements leads to a shrinking workforce, an issue that is further compounded by the growing skills gap among workers. How will we replace the knowledge and history lost when this influential generation leaves the workforce? How will this impact the ability of U.S. businesses to compete in a global society?
We’re not just facing a shift in workers; we’re witnessing the evolution of the career. Gone are the days of employment at the same company for 20-30 years, climbing the ladder with one promotion to the next. Today, a worker is perceived to be more valuable if they have experience in multiple industries/sectors and can learn and implement new skills quickly. Technology is forcing the hand of both employers and employees – a plethora of online classes makes training for new skills readily available, and sometimes free of cost, 24/7.
The intersection of these new realities emerges when a senior-level position opens up at your company and you’re faced with the decision to hire an older, experienced worker who will require a sizable salary or hiring a less experienced worker who you can pay less but who also has the ability to learn skills on the fly. This will confront you with a few questions that we field on a daily basis: Is an experienced, expensive hire worth the money? Do I have support systems in place to train and expand the skills of an inexperienced hire? How could I leverage the knowledge of an experienced worker that may not be capable of fulfilling all aspects of the job if, for example, it requires the use of a new technology that they’re not familiar with?
There are both prejudices and benefits to hiring an older worker. The potential for higher healthcare costs, the all-too-prevalent settlements rewarded for wrongful dismissal, or the perceived inability to learn and adapt are a few prejudices an employer must weigh. Are these canceled out by the invaluable knowledge that comes from years of life experience, or the ability to predict problems while also instinctively knowing how to solve them? There are also prejudices and benefits to a younger hire – inexperience and a gap in skills, but the potential for quick learning and versatility.
Translate what you are trying to accomplish into the human element. If you’re lost on the answers to the questions discussed earlier, that’s ok. An exploratory conversation up front will make it clear whether or not there’s a single type of person for the job.
A trained intuition is required to identify problems and present tailored solutions. Hiring an experienced worker may cost you in salary, but would save you time, energy and money you’d otherwise spend on training an inexperienced hire. Implementing training systems to expand skill-sets of current and future employees would help address both the inexperienced hire and a veteran hire lacking the experience in newer technologies. Bringing on an experienced worker as a mentor for current employees is another potential solution.
We are all about the “people value” that your employees bring to your business; they are truly your greatest asset. Looking at a resume only gives you an objective view. How do you know how this person will work alongside other people in your company? Characteristics like cultural fit, temperament, and adaptability are not found on paper but can be revealed if you ask the right questions. For more ideas on how to tackle the aging workforce and subsequent skills gap, check back with our blog each week or sign up for our newsletter here.