SHRM project to focus on aging workforceNews added by Benefits Pro on March 5, 2014

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By Allen Greenberg

Many baby boomers plan to work past the traditional retirement age of 65, but the next five years or so will see huge numbers of this generation leaving the workforce.

Between now and then, the Society for Human Resource Management and the SHRM Foundation will work on a project aimed at highlighting the value of older workers and identifying best practices for retaining and employing an aging workforce.

The effort, announced Tuesday, comes at a time when many HR professionals already report difficulty hiring skilled workers.

As SHRM pointed out in its announcement, the baby boomer retirement wave will have an “unprecedented effect on employers.”

“Older workers represent a never-before-seen opportunity for employers,” said Mark Schmit, executive director of the SHRM Foundation. “In this knowledge economy, the retention of older workers gives employers a competitive edge by allowing them to continue to tap a generation of knowledge and skill.”

SHRM expects its project to last three years, with a focus on research and analysis on the implications of an older workforce.

“New thinking by HR professionals and employers will be required to recruit and retain (workers older than 55),” Schmit said. “Otherwise, organizations’ greatest asset will walk out the door in the next 10 years.”

Older workers also bring “distinctive” needs to the workplace such as caregiving responsibilities and health concerns, and they can complicate career advancement for younger workers and contribute to intergenerational conflict, SHRM said.

As a result, the project will identify effective practices for employing and engaging older workers.

According to Gallup, many boomers intend to stay on the job at least until age 66 and perhaps as late as 73. But whether they’ll approach their work with passion or simple persistence remains an important and unanswered question.

So far, indications are good.

“About one in three (31 percent) employed boomers are engaged at work, compared with 38 percent of traditionalists (those born before 1946), 30 percent of Generation X workers, and 28 percent of millennials. However, baby boomers who expect to retire after age 65 are slightly more engaged (34 percent) in their jobs than boomers overall.”

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