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Ignoring Age Differences Could Help You Solve Labor Shortages

Still having trouble finding labor? Still reaching out to – and striking out with – people in their 20s and 30s?

Perhaps you should adjust your sights to look at older workers and flexible labor. Yes, skyrocketing stock portfolios sent millions into early retirement in the last few years. However, many of those are dipping their toes back into the workforce for various reasons. They’re bored. They want to contribute and have the experience to do so. They want to mentor younger cohorts as they grow in the workforce.

And they realize the era of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) also applies to their retirement portfolios.

Historically, the over-50 set has faced difficulties getting hired, even though federal law prohibits discrimination against those older than 40. That may be changing.

Older Workers Arrive on Time, Aren’t Captivated by Social Media

First off, demographics could be forcing employers’ hands – Generations X and Z offer much smaller pools of labor to draw from, so the odds are stacked against you.

Second, as The Wall Street Journal reported, many bosses are tired of younger employees who “arrive late for shifts, call out of work often and spend more time scrolling social media feeds than chatting with customers.”

Perhaps because of the above reasons, according to the “23rd Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey,” 61% of employers gave “a great deal” or “quite a bit” of consideration to hiring workers older than 50.

That does not mean they actually hired older workers. However, April’s unemployment rate for workers 55 and older was 2.3%, down from 2.8% in April 2022.

Flexible Work Arrangements Can Attract, Retain Older Talent

Beyond the obvious benefits of hiring older workers, the advent of remote work and flexible scheduling can lure back and keep more of them in the workforce. For example, Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh realized that older nurses did not necessarily want to stand on their feet for shifts that lasted 8 or 12 hours. But they were game for 4 hours or so. Combine that with creative scheduling and some tasks that can be done remotely, and you have expanded your workforce pool. Executives gave managers the freedom to be creative and the training and technology to make sure nurses re-entering hospitals had up-to-date skills.

General Motors has a similar program. And companies like Bank of America Corp., Microsoft Corp., H&R Block Inc. and KinderCare Learning Centers Inc. have signed an AARP pledge to give older workers a fair shot. Commitments to that pledge rose 122% last year.

Beyond their skill level, older workers are generally happier employees, according to a recent Pew Research report.

Experience Can Make a Difference

I’ve certainly found that with Tompkins Ventures and Tompkins Leadership. Both companies rely heavily on experienced leadership coaches and former VPs and executives. You do not want a 23-year-old coaching your executive set or leading organizational transformation.

Likewise, people who developed supply chain execution and strategy for decades can help you recognize how to design your network, which technologies work and which are nothing more than bells and whistles,

They can help you develop agile facilities for our age of perpetual disruption. They can select capital sources that act as advocates, not just a funding mechanism. These are the people who can help you recruit, train and retain the perfect flexible labor force – basically everything you need to make your company greater than ever.

So, if you’re having trouble with your labor force, fight ageism and hire older employees. I think you’ll be pleased with the results.