How to Help Baby Boomers Plan a Career Path

by Harry Ross on Sep 7, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Baby boomersMost of the career planning conversations taking place in organizations focus on the millennial generation and how they view careers differently than their veteran counterparts.

However, there are a number of factors coming together that tell us that it’s not just millennials who are viewing their careers differently, but boomers as well. It looks like the boomer generation plans to work longer and later in life than any previous generation. Here are three ways the workforce is expected to change:


Average Life Expectancy in the United States Is Increasing

According to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services, the average life expectancy went from 76.8 years in 2000 to 78.8 in 2014. Many experts are predicting that in the near future, it wont be unusual for people to live until 120 years old.


The Percentage of the United States Population Over 60 Is Increasing

The Global AgeWatch Index reported that in 2015, 20.7% of the US population was over 60 years of age, but by 2030, that number jumps to 26.1%. Then by 2050, it jumps again to 27.9%. 

Not only is the percentage of older Americans increasing, but by 2020, workers ages 55 and over will account for 25% of the US workforce, up from just 13% in 2000, according to a study by Stanford University.

U.S. workforce 

Those Older Workers Need and Want to Work Longer

AARP also found that 70% of experienced workers say they plan to work into retirement and 35% of those aged 65–74 cite the extra income as the reason why.

However, it’s not just for the money. An article from TheStreet noted that of the retired baby boomers that have a job, 6 in 10 say they work for nonfinancial reasons including:

  • 18% are working to stay mentally sharp
  • 15% are working to stay physically active
  • 15% are working to maintain a sense of purpose

Let’s put that all together: older Americans are living longer, there will be more of them in the workplace, and they need or want to work longer. How are organizations going to maximize all the knowledge and experience?  

President of Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies Catherine Collinson says, “only 48% of employers have practices in place to enable shifting from full-time to part-time and even fewer (37%) allow taking on new positions that are less stressful or demanding.”

Before the workplace can absorb all that talent, employers must reassess their attitudes about older workers and think of creative ways to take advantage of boomers staying in the workplace longer. Here are several ideas that companies can use to take advantage of all that knowledge:


01. Part-time or flex schedules

As workers start to edge into retirement, they want flexibility. Merrill Lynch found that 71% of pre-retirees would like to include some work in their retirement years, with most seeking flexible arrangements — on the job part-time, remotely, or with the ability to mix periods of work with periods of leisure.

While this is way out of the box for many companies, it wouldnt take much to find the right mix of full-time, off-time, or off-site work to address boomers desires for flexibility.


02. Consultants

Veteran workers have a great deal of knowledge and, despite rumors to the contrary, and are very up to date on current trends. Many are even surprisingly good with all this newfangled technology.

Start-ups could especially benefit from using these folks for specific projects, as they might be able to offer strategic as well as tactical business advice to a new company.


03. Mentors

Along with that, many more-experienced workers could be mentors to younger leaders. This could be as simple as a once-a-month lunch or a more formal arrangement. 

According to Peter Cappelli, a management professor at the Wharton School of business and coauthor of Managing the Older Worker, perhaps the greatest asset older workers bring is experience — their workplace wisdom. Theyve learned how to get along with people, solve problems without drama, and call for help when necessary.


04. Silver entrepreneurs

25.8% of all new entrepreneurs are in the 55–64 age bracket, as reported by the Kauffman Index. This is up from 14.8% in the 1997 index.

silver entrepreneurs

Why? According to the Kauffman Index, “they have their own source of early-stage capital (their pensions and savings), greater schedule flexibility, a wider professional network, and a wealth of industry experience that grants them vital knowledge of areas ripe for innovation.”

Older workers would also be great for nonprofit organizations to consider, as many of them are looking for a sense of purpose and a way to give back to their community as well.

With a little creativity, companies can find a way to transition existing employees or hire outside talent from this very experienced, very skilled, and very knowledgeable demographic. Your organization will not only benefit from their abilities, but for the most part, they want to be there. That kind of employee engagement is priceless.


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This post was written by Harry Ross

Harry Ross is the HR Director at Brenthaven and runs his own HR consulting business focusing on helping companies get better results through more engaged employees. He is a runner who loves to spend time in the garden and playing with his two Miniature Schnauzers, Casper and Boris. He lives in Seattle, and no, he doesn’t mind the rain.

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