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Preparing for The Aging Workforce

More and more seniors are staying in the the workforce, and this means companies need to understand how to best utilize and protect them.

Over the past 20 years, the number of working Americans in their 70s has increased from under 10 percent to nearly 15 percent, the US Census Bureau data reveals. Thanks to a combination of people living longer, healthier lives and financial necessity, this number is only set to increase. The benefits of hiring or keeping older workers as a part of your workforce are numerous: they have more knowledge and experience than younger workers and also tend to be more reliable and loyal. 

Hiring or keeping older workers as part of your workforce have other considerations, though. Although they’re less likely to injure themselves than younger workers, injuries sustained by older workers are typically more severe and take longer to heal. Still, this does not discount the value older workers have on the workforce regarding skills, attitude, and knowledge.

Basically, older workers are critical to companies, but they also require certain safeguards. Organizations should take action to help protect older workers.

Training Requirements
While older workers are very capable of learning new skills and performing new tasks, health and safety managers may need to adjust training requirements to optimize learning efficiency. For example, you may need to extend the training period to allow older workers extra time to absorb the material. Self-paced learning schedules may be even more effective. Focus on providing practical training, which helps reinforce learning.

Make sure older workers have the opportunity to practice using equipment or technology relevant to the job. Help and assistance should be readily available. While older workers may take longer to train than younger workers, they’re just as productive in the long run. In fact, 70 percent of HR managers cited stronger work ethic as one of the main benefits of hiring older workers.

Changes in Career
When conducting risk assessment, think about the tasks typically performed by your organization’s older workers. Is there manual handling or strenuous activity involved? You may need to create opportunities that allow them to move to other, more suitable types of workCareer switches are popular choices for people of all ages, including those middle-aged and above. In fact, the average worker holds an average of 10.8 jobs from ages 18 to 42. With the aging workforce, career switches or new job assignments within your organization will continue to be viable options for even older employees.

Additionally, consider switching older workers into positions of mentorship. Older workers have knowledge, skills, and experience, which makes them a great choice for mentorship roles. You’ll then minimize potential ergonomic injuries while creating an efficient and productive workforce.

Workplace Health Programs
Health issues increase with age—hypertension and arthritis are two of the most common health conditions reported by employees older than 55, according to the CDC. In fact, over 75 percent of older workers have at least one chronic health condition that requires management. Implementing workplace health programs can help organizations prevent disease and injury and maintain a healthy workforce. Job reassignment can also eliminate certain ergonomic issues that may affect the older employees.

For example, a comprehensive workplace health program may include healthy menus, physical exercise, tobacco-use cessation support, health screenings, and medical care. Additionally, train management to spot signs of chronic illnesses and implement an effective absence-management policy.

Older workers are an asset to any organization. Taking the time to implement these effective workplace solutions can benefit both older and younger workers alike and maintain a positive and productive workforce.