Is Your Region Effectively Engaging with Older Workers? Six Strategies for Success
Are your state and local workforce strategies optimized to support and engage older workers in your region? You may already be serving older workers in a stellar way, and that’s great! But if you need some help or enhancement strategies for serving this population, you came to the right blog. Keep reading for important information on serving older adult workers ages 55 and up, including workforce insights, labor market metrics, barrier remediation and 6 strategies you can use to more successfully engage with older workers.
The United States Senate’s Special Committee on Aging” issued a report
titled “America’s Aging Workforce” which identified that the labor force over 55 years and older is projected to increase from 35.7 million in 2016 to 42.1 million in 2026. The aging workforce will represent a quarter of the workforce! Serving this population in career counseling services and job placement assistance represents unique challenges and wonderful opportunities. The Special Committee on Aging is seeking to ensure that older workers have opportunities to work while still preparing for retirement.
The graphic below illustrates an age breakdown of workers and the labor force growth rate projected into 2026.
Labor Force Metrics
While the labor force as a whole is projected to grow by an average of just 0.6 percent per year through 2026, the number of workers ages 65 to 74 is projected to grow by 4.2 percent annually and the number of workers ages 75 and above by 67 percent annually. That’s huge!
Employment patterns and the composition of the labor force also vary by region and state, and do not always reflect national trends. The graphic below compares employment-to-population ratios by region in The United States.
As you can tell by the graphic above, the 55+ demographic is fairly large in many regions. By 2024, BLS projects that the labor force will grow to about 41 million people who will be ages 55 and older—of whom about 13 million are expected to be ages 65 and older. Since older Americans are increasingly relying on income from work well beyond their expected retirement age, workers in this age group have become a much larger proportion of all jobseekers, and of those served by public workforce development programs. Further, older workers often enjoy continuing to work either part-time or full-time in order to increase monthly payments received from Social Security upon retirement.
Let’s take a look at some specific trends and projections below from the workforce report.
Trending Info Pulled from the America’s Aging Workforce Report
- Later Retirements. Fewer older workers are transitioning directly from full-time work to full-time retirement. They are transitioning to part-time positions with their current employer or a new one, while others become self-employed. (Remember that many people — no matter their age — do not have enough money to retire (even if they wanted to). In the U.S., it costs $1 million to retire at age 65, yet 21% of Americans have no savings, and 10% have less than $5,000 in savings. All this to say, people of every age are motivated to come to work, particularly if employers offer an inclusive, fair, and meaningful experience for older employees – HBR article - https://hbr.org/2019/09/the-case-for-hiring-older-workers)
- Increased Flexibility. 80 percent of employers say they are supportive of employees who plan to work past the age of 65, but only 39 percent offer flexible scheduling, and only 31 percent make it easy to facilitate processes for moving from full-time to part-time roles. Employers can do a better job of offering customized schedules
- Limited Savings. It is estimated that one-third of workers do not have access to a retirement plan at work, and many aging workers have not saved enough for retirement and may continue to work beyond when they intended to retire out of financial need. Looking for an employer who offers a financial savings plan and financial advising services is essential.
WIOA funding and programming is a great resource for training and employment assistance that can be offered in government-funded workforce programs around the country. For example, EDSI offers many workshops that are targeted directly towards or can be of great benefit to the 55+ worker in addition to one-on-one individualized support. Such workshops include: How to Complete an Online Job Application, Computers for Beginners, Navigating Indeed, Navigating PA CareerLink website, LinkedIn and Networking, Modern Interviewing, Writing Effective Cover Letters, and Do’s and Don’ts of Resumes.
“We have partnered with the Philadelphia Mayor’s Commission on Aging to offer workshops designed to improve the technology skills of the 55+ job seeker, update their resumes, and direct them to job placement assistance. Participants in our workshops are very grateful. For many, the landscape has changed dramatically since their last job search. If their computer skills are outdated, the challenge of using Internet job search engines or completing online applications can seem overwhelming. In addition to workshops we offer participants one-on-one support from everything to creating a resume from scratch, help with cover letters, and overcoming technological hurdles.” said Nick Tropiano, Lead Facilitator at the Northwest Philadelphia CareerLink.
Identifying and Minimizing Barriers
WIOA was specially designed to assist individuals with barriers. We know that workplace barriers can and often do prevent individuals with the opportunity to participate in the workforce. The barriers older workers face must be addressed, especially when it comes to challenges related to training, technology, and age bias.
According to Upjohn.org, American Job Centers (AJCs), the government-sponsored hub for job-search services and workforce training, aren’t always equipped with enough dedicated staff to work with the older population. The increase in virtual-based services can also be a barrier for older workers who are technically challenged.
The following barriers are among the main challenges facing an aging workforce:
- Age discrimination
- Inadequate training opportunities
- Lack of hard or soft skills, especially technology
- Working while managing health conditions and disabilities
- Balancing caregiving responsibilities with work
- Preparing financially for retirement
The goal of any workforce provider is to identify and provide access to training services that lead to sustainable employment, so how can we minimize the barriers of the 55+ demographic in the areas of career preparation, training and placement?
When it comes to helping older adults put their best foot forward in their career journey, there are many ways to provide support, including offering individualized help beyond the standard information-gathering assessments and intake process.
Enhancing older workers’ employment prospects starts with two steps, illustrated in the graphic below.
4 Methods for Breaking Barriers
- Barrier Breaker # 1 – Provide a thorough skills assessment to match personality and skill-set to optimal work opportunity
- Barrier Breaker # 2 – Offer Career Counseling/Mentoring/Job Matching services that provide next-level support throughout the job search process
- Barrier Breaker # 3 Provide Assistance in obtaining paid on-the-job training opportunities and government-funded training programs
- Barrier Breaker # 4 – Securing resources that negate barriers to the 55+ worker such as transportation, professional clothing, and financial counseling
With barriers reduced or eliminated, serving the 55+ demographic becomes easier and more effective. Employers who are willing to hire and retain older workers can help them improve and retain valuable skills, address workforce shortages, and increase workplace diversity, which all contribute to improved program outcomes.
Benefits of Hiring 55+ Workers
The benefits of working with older workers are numerous. For example, older workers are more likely than younger workers to show up to work, are more values-driven, have more advanced communication and people skills, show stronger leadership, and often have stronger professional and client networks. Older workers can serve as mentors and share their experiences with younger workers, helping to bridge the generational gap.
Does your LWDB offer older workers access to relevant skills development and training services? Many older workers lack information on exactly what kind of skills would be most beneficial and how to access them. The 55+ demographic often needs help improving their professional skills and/or learning new ones to meet the needs of current jobs. Older worker skill deficiencies have created barriers to employment that often lead to longer periods of unemployment (referred to as “long-term unemployed” (26 weeks or longer).
“Lacking the right skills makes it increasingly difficult for the 55+ worker to compete in today’s job market. By better supporting this demographic through our workshops and one-on-one services, we can work towards increasing their marketability and likelihood of gaining meaningful employment. I recommend participating in our technology, resume, and online job search workshops in addition to utilizing our individualized one-on-one support services.” said Daniel Rivera, Facilitation Manager.
Now it’s time to dive into some success strategies to help serve older workers.
6 Strategies for Successfully Serving Older Workers
- Empathize with the needs and perspective of the 55+ worker
- Actively listen to correctly identify each job seeker’s individual needs
- Customize service recommendations based on each 55+ job seeker’s needs
- Recommend workshops and one-on-one support based as needed
- Direct 55+ job seekers to additional resources that can help overcome challenges they may be facing
- Consider connecting job seekers to On-the-Job Training (OJT) opportunities with local employers to help older workers obtain new and improve existing skills.
Note: Many LWDBs like the Northwest Philadelphia CareerLink offer 55+ workers temporary employment assisting other 55+ workers overcome technology challenges such as completing online job applications and basic computer operation.