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Worker Shortage by 2010: Preparation

SHRM News Release

The number of workers age 55 and over are expected to increase by 47 percent over the next seven years, and nearly two-thirds of human resource (HR) professionals say they are preparing for the demographic change within their organizations.

The new Older Workers Survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), with the National Older Worker Career Center (NOWCC) and the Committee for Economic Development (CED) identifies organizations’ readiness to respond to the demographic changes in the workforce and respondents’perceptions of the advantages and disadvantages of hiring older workers. The survey included the responses of 428 HR professionals.

Thirty-two percent of respondents said their organizations were doing nothing to prepare for the worker shortage, while 36 percent have increased training and 29 percent have implemented succession planning or replacement charts.

“It’s expected that the baby-boom generation will redefine retirement, because many plan to continue working in their later years,” said SHRM Vice President of Knowledge Development Deb Cohen, Ph.D., SPHR.“As the worker shortage becomes more pronounced, HR professionals will be inclined to make more significant changes to their recruitment and retention benefits to better reflect the demographics of their organizations and the benefits of hiring older workers.”

Only 7 percent of respondents indicated that they had defined a plan or proposed specific changes to prepare for the retirement of a large percentage of workers 55 and over. More than half of organizations are only now becoming aware of the issue or are beginning to examine their workplace policies. Most respondents said they neither actively recruit older workers nor do they do anything specific to retain them.

“The aging of the American workforce represents one of our greatest emerging national issues,” said Larry Anderson, president and CEO of NOWCC. “The challenge of keeping the American economy strong in part, dependent on our ability to create ways for millions of willing, seasoned, and capable workers to continue to contribute in the workplace.”

Some notable findings from the survey include the following:

72 percent of the HR professionals said an advantage to hiring older workers was their willingness to work different schedules.

62 percent of respondents said the growing age of the workforce has impacted recruiting, retention and management policy/practices to no extent or to a very small extent.

72 percent said retirees have returned to work for enjoyment or to occupy their time, while 64 percent said retirees have returned to work for the money, and 53 percent said retirees have returned to work for the social interaction.

78 percent said phased retirement enabling older workers to reduce hours and responsibilities would be helpful.

HR professionals see many advantages of hiring older workers. Respondents said older workers provided invaluable experience (72 percent), had a stronger work ethic (69 percent) and were more reliable (68 percent). Only 1 percent said there were no advantages.

“To ensure success over the next twenty years, American companies will need significant contributions from older workers,” said Charles E.M. Kolb, president of CED. “CED’s report, New Opportunities for Older Workers, urges companies to prepare for the new era of employment by removing barriers for Americans who wish to extend their careers. Everyone–employers, older workers, and the nation–will benefit from an effective pro-work plan for older workers.”


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