Nine Tips for Managing an Aging Workforce

iStock_000070988009_SmallThe US workforce is rapidly aging, so how can employers adapt? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one in five American workers is over 65 and by 2020, almost 32 percent of the population between 65 and 74 will be working, which is double the number for the same age group in 1992.

The postponement of retirement will have a significant effect on compensation and benefits as well as medical costs and intergenerational dynamics. A prudent employer should follow these nine tips when managing an aging workforce:


1. Implement Policies Prohibiting Age Discrimination

An employer should be sure to develop, implement and enforce policies prohibiting age discrimination, harassment and retaliation under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and similar state and local laws. In doing so, an employer should provide training to all supervisors and employees and follow up on any complaints with an investigation and disciplinary measures if warranted.

Also, an employer should avoid any preemployment inquiries or employment decisions that are based solely on an individual’s age, and be careful about neutral workplace rules and practices that negatively affect older workers.

2. Institute Wellness Programs

An employer with an aging workforce may consider instituting wellness programs which focus on keeping employees healthy, fit and engaged. Wellness program can decrease absenteeism, and increase employee productivity and efficiency. An employer can play an active role in decreasing smoking, battling obesity and reducing the risk of heart disease and high cholesterol and other chronic conditions by encouraging employees to lead healthy lives and remain active.

3. Focus on Mentoring and Training Programs

Older workers often bring talent, advanced knowledge and professional experience that can benefit the employer while younger employees may be able to share knowledge of the latest digital advances. An employer should encourage the generations to work together in a meaningful way in order to benefit the entire workforce.

4. Provide Reasonable Accommodations

With an aging workforce, there is a greater chance that individuals will have disabilities, become disabled during the course of employment, or be faced with a serious health condition that requires time off from work. An employer should be prepared to provide reasonable accommodations so that workers may continue to perform their jobs safely but only if feasible and if doing so would not create an undue hardship. Reasonable accommodations might include:

• Rotating physically demanding or repetitive tasks;
• Adapting duties to an older workers’ needs and abilities; or
• Increasing break time.

Additionally, if an employee is no longer able to perform a specific job (i.e. climbing a ladder), the employer should evaluate whether the employee’s skills and talents may be used elsewhere in the company.

5. Allow Flexible Work Arrangements and Paid Time Off

An employer also may want to consider allowing older employees more flexible working arrangements such as telecommuting or job sharing, reduced hours, contract work or project-based work. These options will enable employees to keep working while providing them with flexibility and time off to tend to their own health needs or the needs of spouses and partners.

6. Offer Employee Assistance

Offering programs to assist older workers with personal, work and healthcare issues to care for themselves and their families may also merit consideration. Such benefits may include counseling and support groups, as well as bereavement leave to assist older employees.

7. Evaluate Retirement Options

Phased retirement will allow an older employee to gradually leave the company while keeping them on in a supporting role to offer assistance and mentoring to younger workers. Employers may also want to provide incentives for employees to retire early. However, in doing so, an employer should be sure to that any severance benefits are provided in exchange for a release of claims. What’s more, an employer should make sure early retirement plans are voluntary, employees are fully informed and that the employer complies with the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA) and the ADEA.

8. Increase Workplace Safety

All employers, especially those with an aging workforce, should take affirmative steps to make the workplace safer. This may include adding:

• Guard rails;
• Increased lighting;
• Reducing noise levels to increase concentration; and
• Various improvements to the physical workspace.

9. Develop a Succession Plan

An employer should make sure to have a firm plan in place as to how key positions in the organization will be filled if employees retire or health issues prevent them from carrying on in the same capacity. A succession plan will help to ensure business continuity by grooming strong internal candidates for leadership positions and making sure to retain the knowledge and skills of departing workers.

Do you have another tip for managing an aging workforce? Let us know with a comment below.


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