The Herman Trend Alert|
October 12, 2005
Unhappy Senior Workers
We have forecasted a substantial growth in workers over 55 years of age, projecting that we will see significant increases in the number of employees in their seventies, eighties, and nineties. The leading edge of this trend is already evident. Reasons for people continuing to work include their personal values and a desire to be productive.
There is more to this picture. While a large number of older citizens enjoy working and making a difference, they also want to be with other people. Opportunities to serve as coaches, mentors, and role models are very satisfying for employees who have climbed their way up the ladder of success. All these reasons sound very positive and motivating, and they are.
But there is a dark side to the trend. Many older workers will continue to report for duty because they need the security of their employer’s benefit program. The emphasis today is on health insurance, an important support that is often unaffordable for retirees. While government programs such as Medicare help, the level is described as barely survival by seniors who need extended employment. Other benefits are important, too, but are over-shadowed by the vital need for medical and prescription drug coverage.
This circumstance, under which a number of employees will work because they have to instead of because they want to, will create a level of irritation and feeling of lack of control. Neither of these attitudes is healthy for the employer or the employee. Human resource specialists and managers will need to build their sensitivity to these attitudes of a portion of their older workforce.
Wise employers who can benefit from the wisdom, experience, and maturity of older workers will maintain a consciously supportive insurance program for employees. Coverage that includes people who work part-time, flextime, or job-sharing schedules will enable employers to attract more stable, dependable, high-performing seasoned employees. Some of these workers will be in a financial position to need only partial assistance; other will need a full support package. Designing flexibility into benefits design and administration will make a big difference in the competition for top talent.
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