Maine Employers, Meet Aging Workforce

Maine Employers, Meet Aging Workforce

Business leaders attending the USM Corporate Partners breakfast last week learned that leaving the workforce any time soon seems less and less likely for an increasing number of baby-boomers. Since 2001, the percentage of full time workers over age 65 has been growing well beyond those working part time. What are the factors driving this shift and what should older workers and employers be thinking about?

John Dorrer, a senior advisor at Jobs for the Future in Boston, told his USM audience that employers need to change how they view the aging worker and aging workers need to brush up on their job skills and networking activities. With the prime working-age population (age 25-54) on the decline in Maine, “baby boomers” will be the best prepared human resource in virtually all segments of the economy.

The forecast in New Hampshire is brighter as demographers expect an 18.8% growth in population (260,911) compared to Maine’s 4% growth (53,963). Nevertheless, both states are on the aging end of the spectrum.

Born following World War II, from 1946 until 1964, the first of these post-war newborns now are eligible for social security and Medicare. While these aging workers are in better health, better educated and more capable of working than at any time in history, more than 45 percent of people age 50-59 currently have no pension plan (defined benefit) or 401(K) plan (defined contribution).

If nearly half that group is relying primarily on Social Security, their standard of living will be far below what they expect.

So what’s an older worker to do?

FOUR SUGGESTIONS

First, do your homework. Decide how much you need to live a life that is financially secure. Determine when to start drawing benefits and how much you can earn without diminishing your monthly check from the government.

Second, have a talk with your employer about your needs and expectations. If you want to work or have to work after retirement eligibility, put that right on the table. Also, remind your employer that you may be able to roll onto the Medicare rolls while continuing to make a valuable contribution to your organization.

Third, if you are trying to return to the workforce, be sure your skills are keeping pace with technology. Take a course on common computer applications.

Also, “who you know” means as much or more than “what you know” when trying to land a job. According to CareerXRoads.com, the most effective way to get a job is a referral whether in person via networking online (LinkedIn, Facebook, email, etc.). Their data indicates that candidates using an employee referral are 3 to 4 times more likely to get the job.

Fourth, keep saving. You have no idea how long you or your spouse is going to live but the odds are you’ll have another 20 years ahead of you after age 67. To help build your sense of financial security, you also may want to buy an annuity that provides what we call a “personal pension.”

HIRING CONSIDERATIONS

Employers need to think about their hiring and management practices. Flexibility may become important in attracting and maintaining older workers who will doubtless need more time for doctor’s appointments or may desire to work less than a full week.

From an insurance perspective, older employees may cost more for health insurance and may be higher risk for work-related injuries, but their work ethic and knowledge may add more value than any possible negatives. Nevertheless, being certain older workers are physically and mentally suited to the work you need accomplished.

Finally, reviewing your hiring practices to address performance expectations will allow you to more effectively manage your workforce. As an employer, you need to document your procedures and work performance to create a clear paper trail should issues arise.

The Human Resources Association of Southern Maine (www.hrasm.shrm.org) has a panel discussion slated for December 10 (7:15 am – 9:00 am at the Clarion Hotel in Portland) to discuss the challenges and opportunities of this demographic shift.

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