Study: Most Employers Haven't Prepared for Aging Workforce

American employers aren't doing a good job of preparing for the aging workforce, according to new research.

American employers aren’t doing a good job of preparing for the aging workforce, according to new research.

The Society for Human Resource Management recently released a study, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which looked at the shifting demographics of the workforce. According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, by next year fully one-third of the US workforce will be age 50 and older. That’s up from 2007, when just 27% of the workforce fit into that category.

The study found about 30% of healthcare and social assistance workers fit into the 50-plus age group.

Those aging workers carry with them decades of institutional knowledge, as well as a strong work ethic, and a refined sense of professionalism, according to the survey. In other words, the retirement of those employees will constitute a major loss for many companies and industries.

Still, while the shift is immediately on the horizon, SHRM found the majority of companies haven’t done much to address the issue. The survey found only about 36% of survey respondents reported having examined internal policies in order to prepare for the shift. One-fifth (20%) said they examined existing practices but found they didn’t need to change policies. Another fifth (19%) said they were only now becoming aware of the shift.

In fact, only half of the survey respondents said they even keep track of the percentage of employees eligible to retire in the next one to 2 years.

Thirty-five percent of respondents said they’d changed recruiting practices in order to better target older workers. Roughly the same amount, 33%, said they had changed policies to boost retention of existing workers. Those changes included offering reduced or part-time hours, hiring retirees as consultants, and allowing phased retirement, among other changes.

In its executive summary, SHRM said human resource managers must be proactive to determine the effect the shift will have on their organizations and develop a strategy to deal with it.

“Convincing workers to delay retirement and stay in the workforce will be one important way that HR professionals will help their organizations deal with the shortages in the years ahead,” the study concludes. “They must also convince managers and organizational leaders to support them in these efforts.”

The entire study can be found here.