A few years ago, retirements and the aging workforce were everywhere in the HR news (and a lot of the business news!).  During the economic downturn, focus faded away, with shrinking investments and economic uncertainty for potential retirees giving employers confidence that this wasn’t an issue.  In fact, we’ve heard it referred to as “another Y2K”.  Our clients in many industries are coming back to focus on it in a big way.

There’s a good article in this month’s Talent Management Magazine on Rethinking Retirement.  If your organization has an aging workforce challenge (even if it’s only in pockets…and it usually is), it’s required reading.  Here are some key points:

  • During the recession workers 55 and older actually added about 1 million jobs in the US, with nearly 500,000 jobs going to workers aged 60-64 – young people bore the brunt of job losses (aside:  a fact which probably increases the future risk for many organizations!)
  • There’s an increasing focus on seasonal work for older workers – more than 1,000 workers took advantage of CVS Caremark’s Snowbird program in 2008
  • Engagement has been increasing in older workers, but decreasing in younger workers (which might just be related to who bore the brunt of the layoffs…)

And there’s another great article in The Economist on Executive education and the over-55s which talks about the ways in which older executives like to learn…and it’s not by attending classes which they describe as “a repetition of lessons already learned and become increasingly irrelevant in the light of experience and expertise”. 

So with comments on engagement, learning styles, work design preferences and a bunch of other things which are very much related to attributes of the supply, and not on the skills and numbers the organization needs (aka not on the demand), it’s becoming increasingly urgent to change the way we think about the future workforce and focus on strategic workforce planning, which factors in both supply and demand aspects.