Study Promotes Ways to Hire Older Employees

March 19, 2008 ( - The upcoming wave of Baby Boomer retirements and its effects on employers' future staffing needs may be a difficult issue, but a new study contends there are many ways to cope with it.

In the report, Current Strategies to Employ and Retain Older Workers, authorsLauren Eyster, Richard W. Johnson, and Eric Toder assert that organizations have a lot to lose if they do not start now to better utilize older workers in or near retirement.“As the U.S. population ages and the number of people reaching traditional retirement ages increases, employers may need to do more to attract and retain older workers, many of whom are highly experienced, knowledgeable, and skilled,” the authors contended. “Employers’ ability to tap into this underused resource in the coming years could be the key to avoiding labor shortages and maintaining economic growth.”

According to the report, employers around the country have had success with:

  • formal and informal phased retirement options;
  • flexible work arrangements such as part-time work, flexible schedules, job sharing;
  • telework arrangements; and
  • snowbird programs that allow older workers to continue working when they move to their winter homes.

The study also contends that government agencies and non-profits working for older workers need to develop partnerships with potential employers within which they can educate them about the value of hiring or retaining older workers with their specialized pools of knowledge.

Particularly, those education campaigns have to focus on dispelling employer beliefs that it may not be worth it to bring on older employees. “Many employers believe, for instance, that older workers are generally costly to employ; lack necessary, up-to-date skills; and may be less productive than younger workers,” the study contends.

The picture is more complex because many older Americans can afford to choose a part-time work arrangement because of their accumulated retirement savings.

“They can be especially selective in their job search and turn down offers that do not suit them,” the authors said. “The wage may not be the most important element of the employment package for many older Americans. Instead, they may assign more significance to how well employment opportunities allow them to combine work with other priorities, such as leisure activities and family care responsibilities.”

The Urban Institute report was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. The study report is available here .