Effective Recruitment Strategies for Older Workers

Posted Wednesday, June 29th, 2016  | Comments (1) rule

Judi Casey

WorkLife Consultant
Founding Director of the Work and Family Researchers Network (WFRN)
Email: judiccasey@gmail.com

When it comes to workforce planning, it’s all about the numbers – of people, that is.  Demographic data suggest impending labor shortages and increasingly tight labor markets, due to projections of weak growth in the working age population over the next 15 years. Continued immigration will help to fill some of the gaps, however, an increasing number of older workers are healthy and motivated to continue working. They could fill some of these deficits in the talent pool, and might want to do so for several reasons: to supplement their current income or retirement funds, obtain health insurance benefits, pursue an encore career, or just to remain active in the world of work.

Yet, some strong biases exist against hiring older workers. Nearly 60% of 1,500 U.S. workers ages 45 to 74 surveyed by AARP in 2008 reported that they sensed or observed negative perceptions of their status as older workers either while at work or during recruitment. In Managing the Older Worker: How to Prepare for the New Organizational Order, the authors found that age bias trumps both gender and race bias; for example, a majority of Internet technology recruiters were not willing to hire someone over 40.

In contrast with these findings of bias, the Aging Workforce Research Initiative, a survey conducted in 2014 by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the SHRM Foundation, found that human resources (HR) professionals have a very positive opinion of older workers. Approximately 70% of this survey’s respondents indicated that older workers are more professional and have a stronger work ethic than their younger counterparts do.  More than 75% viewed the work experience of older employees positively.

Other studies found the perception that older workers add value to organizations, by bringing to the job considerable knowledge, varied skill sets, reliability, and flexibility around scheduling.

What, then, is the best way to recruit older workers for your organization? Here are some suggestions:

  • Employ nontraditional outreach strategies such as partnerships with national and community organizations connected with older adults, such as senior associations and senior-related websites.
  • Use personal and professional connections to solicit employee referrals, target your retired workers for rehire, and reach out to volunteer organizations or retiree associations.
  • Present your organization as “age-inclusive,” using language and imagery that reflects all age groups in your recruiting materials.
  • Develop benefits packages that respond to the unique needs of older workers: eldercare supports, financial planning resources, and flexible work options (telework, reduced hours, nontraditional schedules, and short-term or seasonal assignments).
  • Provide accommodations for the preferences and physical limitations of older workers.
  • Implement ongoing training and shadowing programs as well as opportunities for two-way mentoring.
  • Design training and diversity awareness programs for hiring managers, both to keep them up-to-date on the business case for hiring older workers and to send a message that their recruitment efforts need to consider all potential candidates.
  • Explore how recruitment strategies that target older workers could be used to engage other employee populations. Workers of all ages desire meaningful work and opportunities to learn and develop, and they want to be treated fairly and with respect.
  • Communicate how hiring older workers has enhanced and benefited your organization to counter some of the stereotypes associated with hiring them.

Employers are wise to consider that the best person for the job with the right fit for their organizations might be an older worker.

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Comments (1) for "Effective Recruitment Strategies for Older Workers"

Retirement and Social Engagement: Which “Third” Are You?

Posted Tuesday, June 7th, 2016  | Comments Off on Retirement and Social Engagement: Which “Third” Are You? rule

Erika L. Sabbath, ScD

Assistant Professor
Boston College School of Social Work
Phone: 617-552-2934
Email: erika.sabbath@bc.edu

How do you imagine your retirement?
If you’re like most people, you envision an active engagement with life: playing sports and pursuing hobbies, spending time with your family and friends, volunteering, taking active roles in political or religious groups, and involving yourself in professional organizations. Your retirement dream is that you’ll do everything you always wanted but never had time to do when you were working.

Then again, if you’re like most people, your dream has a shadow side. If, like many of us, you find and build some of your closest relationships at work, you wonder if those relationships will endure when you retire. And if they don’t endure, will retirement gradually erode and destroy your social connections? With declining health, some cherished activities (such as physically demanding sports) might become less appealing, or even possible, making retirement a time of less—not more—social engagement. When you think about this possibility at all, it is usually with a measure of dread.

Does retirement mean more or less social engagement? 
What does the evidence say?  In a recent study published in the European Journal of Ageing, my coauthors and I investigated this question. We used data from GAZEL, a longitudinal study (1989–2007)of more than 10,000 French utility workers. We focused only on those who had retired between 1992and 2004; they ranged in age (as of 2004) from 51–65. To track their patterns of social engagement in the years immediately before and after retirement, we used three measures: activity in social organizations, number of close friends, and number of close family members. We wanted to know the extent to which these measures increased or decreased over a relatively long period. Did people on the whole have more close friends before or after retirement? Did they spend more or less time on socially engaging activities? Did they have more or fewer close family members?

We found no single direction of change. About a third increased their level of social participation; another third maintained their preretirement level of social participation; and another third decreased their level of social participation. Retirement itself had no direct effect on social engagement in our study. Instead, we found that what “third” a person ended up in during retirement was influenced by what had occurred before retirement officially began. For instance, people who had lower-status jobs before they retired were more likely to be less socially engaged as their retirement progressed than those with higher-status jobs.  And these patterns of social engagement tended to persist and even intensify over time, with the potential to create widening inequality in social engagement and (because social engagement affects health status) eventually in health and well-being.

This finding suggests that organizations and programs aiming to improve social participation at older ages should target workers well before they actually retire. People tend to perpetuate and magnify in retirement the degree of social participation they practiced during their preretirement years. For us as individuals, knowing that our levels of social engagement before retirement tend to be carried forward and magnified during the retirement years can be a powerful motivator for us to continually create and nourish those connections throughout our adult lives. When you think about what third you will be in on the social engagement scale during your retirement years, keep in mind that when it comes to building social engagement, there’s no time like the present.

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