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Sloan Center News

Retaining Older Workers with Responsive Work Environments

27 April 2009—According to the 2008 WorkTrends Survey, "half of workers (50%) and those looking for work say they feel as if they need more education and training, and hearly two-thirds (61%) say they would like more education and training."

As the workforce ages, employers are seeking to adjust to the specific workplace requirements of the older demographic. Employers needing to develop new strategies for the recruitment and retention of older workers can profit from leading edge evidence for improving business outcomes.

The Center’s first Research Highlight Insight About Older Workers from the National Study of the Changing Workforce, a study by the Families and Work Institute, describes the workplace experiences of an aging workforce. Workers studied were divided by employment situation and their experiences evaluated on the basis of compensation, job demands, learning opportunities and equality of workplace treatment, among other things.

Among of finding were that older workers have higher rates of self-employment and business ownership than do younger workers. The fact that so many wage and salaried employees—particularly younger employees—do not want to “work for someone else,” but rather “be their own boss,” strongly suggests that today’s employers need to devote serious attention to creating work environments that embody some of the important positive characteristics of self-employment and business ownership such as providing more control over work hours and work location, greater flexibility and job autonomy, and more challenges and learning opportunities on the job.

Employers interested in fitting the needs of the aging workforce can make some adjustments to their workplace practices. Workplaces that have these features may find that they become “employers of choice” for employees, 50 and older, who are still committed to working and bring valuable experience to the job.

In today’s current economic climate, forward-thinking employers are already working with older workers in areas such as workplace flexibility, learning and advancement opportunities and health coverage to achieve competitive advantage.