Today, retirement norms have been all but shattered as employees work deep into their golden years. Pushing through 65, and in many cases, past 70, some mature workers no longer consider traditional retirement -- a complete retreat from workforce participation -- a career objective.
How can employers tap into rapidly evolving attitudes toward work and retirement? By embracing them now. The experience and skills of mature workers -- their experience and skills -- play a vital role in modern business productivity, growth and leadership.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of workers ages 25 to 54 is expected to decline from 71 percent of the workforce in 2000 to 67 percent in 2010. At the same time, the number of workers ages 55 or older will grow to nearly one-fourth of the U.S. workforce by 2010. The older working population will grow 3.5 times faster than the total labor force.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also projected that the median age of the labor force will approach 41 years by 2008. Compare that to 35 years in 2000, and it's easy to see how quickly the workforce is maturing.
As the labor force ages, it is traditional retirement standards, rather than workers, that are becoming old-fashioned. With the rapid advancement of health care, life expectancy is increasing. People must work longer in order to support longer lives.
At the same time, there is genuine interest among workers in remaining professionally engaged later in life. As the workforce matures, so, too, should the mindset of today's hiring managers. They must rethink from where and "when" new talent can come.
Attracting and hiring mature workers
To tap into the growing mature talent pool, businesses must recruit in new ways. After all, seasoned workers, who often have decades of experience and a network of contacts, job hunt and career plan differently than employees who are newer to the workforce.
* Cast a wider net. While the Internet and job boards are increasingly effective for recruiting talent, they should not be the sole source for recruiting mature workers. To attract skilled, experienced workers, companies must extend their reach to business organizations, community groups and local associations for retired workers or workers nearing retirement.
Personal, face-to-face networking is a long-established way of connecting with potential employees, especially mature workers who, because of long-time workplace experience, often have great respect for one-on-one relationship building.
* Build an alumni network. Former employees can be a rich source of experienced employee resources and a direct link to mature workers. By maintaining contact with former workers, an organization can keep ex-employees up-to-date on company happenings and more easily bring them back into the recruiting loop when job or project-based opportunities arise.
* Leverage free agency. Self-employment, free agency, contract-based jobs and flexible work continue to gain popularity among workers of all ages, and organizations looking to bring in experienced workers for a specific duration can consider the help of staffing and recruiting firms.
In growing numbers, older workers are turning to contract and flexible job opportunities as ways to continue their career growth while gaining more control over when and how they work.
* Expand workplace flexibility. For many mature workers, job flexibility options are one of the most attractive features a prospective employer can offer. Businesses looking to significantly increase recruitment and hiring among mature workers must evaluate their workplace flexibility programs and opportunities.
Are there jobs well-suited to flexible scheduling? Could a position be divided, creating a job sharing opportunity for two experienced workers? Could a phased retirement approach (gradually reducing work schedules and workloads of employees looking ahead to retirement) help the organization retain knowledge and experience while meeting mature worker needs for greater flexibility?
Lesley Tell is the South Florida district director for Spherion Staffing Services, a core business unit of Spherion Corp. Reach her at (561) 477-6024 or via email email@example.com. More information on Spherion is available online at www.spherion.com.