While much focus is placed on attracting and retaining Gen Z and millennial workers, the aging workforce represents a significant demographic that employers cannot overlook. By 2030, an estimated 150 million jobs will shift to workers over 55, constituting a quarter of the workforce, according to Bain & Company,  employers and HR departments must prepare for the associated impacts.

Challenges Posed by an Aging Workforce

An aging workforce presents a variety of challenges for employers and HR leaders:

  • Physical Challenges: Older workers in physically demanding jobs face health and safety challenges. The Economic Policy Institute reports that 50 percent of older workers have physically demanding jobs, and 54 percent are exposed to unhealthy or hazardous conditions. These risks can impact business productivity, increase workers’ compensation claims, and lead to absenteeism.
  • Negative Stereotypes: Older workers may be perceived as old-fashioned, less flexible, unhealthy, slow, unproductive, and resistant to change. Such stereotypes can negatively affect their identification with the company, sense of belonging, self-esteem, access to developmental opportunities, and career satisfaction.
  • Higher Absenteeism: Although older workers are less likely to be seriously injured than younger workers, when injuries occur, they typically require longer recovery periods—twice the recuperation time of younger workers.
  • Retirement Risk: As the workforce ages, a time will come when older employees retire, creating talent gaps. Employers should develop strategies to retain top talent regardless of age, such as offering flexible hours, hiring retired workers as independent contractors, or providing phased retirement programs.
  • Knowledge Loss: Aging workers possess decades of skills and experience. Succession plans, such as mentor-protégé programs, can help transfer knowledge to younger workers and provide opportunities for learning from seasoned counterparts.

Best Practices for Integrating Older Workers

Employers can implement several practices to effectively integrate and support the aging workforce:

  • Developing Age-Friendly Work Environments: Creating a workplace that accommodates older employees’ needs is crucial for engagement, self-esteem, productivity, and business success. Flexible working conditions, including hours, location, and job-protected time off, are highly valued by older workers and can encourage them to remain in the workforce longer. Ergonomic workplaces can reduce injuries, absenteeism, and workers’ compensation claims.
  • Functional Capacity Wellness Programs: These programs evaluate workers’ physical fitness for their roles, helping to ensure safe performance and reducing lost workdays and insurance costs. Programs can include pre-employment, fit-for-duty, and return-to-work medical exams, medical surveillance, and wellness education.
  • Retraining and Skill Development: Continuous education and retraining programs, especially in technology and digital tools, can empower older workers with vital skills. Encouraging participation in technology training across all age groups ensures companies stay ahead of innovation.

How can you adapt for an aging workforce?

The role of older workers in the workplace will continue to grow, with adults over 65 expected to represent over 8 percent of the workforce by the next decade. To remain competitive and inclusive, employers must adapt their strategies to accommodate this demographic’s skills and experience. Best practices include flexible working conditions, workplace health and wellness programs, career development opportunities, and HR policies supporting age diversity. By doing so, organizations can harness the strengths of a multigenerational workforce and foster a more diverse and inclusive environment.


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