Hiring baby boomers: What you need to know

By Retailers Insurance Company

Baby boomers are altering the workforce. In an economic phase where employers are crying for talent, organizations that learn to accommodate and leverage older workers’ skills will reap benefits.

We’re in an era of low unemployment, and retirements are outpacing young people entering the workforce. As a result, more businesses are considering employing Baby Boomers.

And more Baby Boomers are staying in the work force. Recent research released by the U.S. Department of Labor shows that, by 2024, one in four workers in the United States will be 55 or older. To put this in context, in 1994, workers over the age of 55 accounted for about one in 10 workers.

Either by choice or by need, 85 percent of today’s baby boomers plan to continue to work into their 70s and even 80s, according to Deloitte Insights.

Besides just filling job openings, older workers can bring skills to the table.

“Engagement levels tend to increase with age, likely because older workers have had the time to find roles that suit their skills and career preferences … Fairly consistently across studies, millennials tend to show the lowest engagement levels. This may be no surprise, as many younger workers are not yet in their preferred roles and are still working their way through entry-level or lower-management-level roles,” according to a study by Deloitte Insights.

Engaged workers tend to be more loyal, produce higher quality work and result in higher profitability and better safety records.

And while multitasking capability tends to decline after age 55, older workers bring wisdom to the workplace, which can help younger workers grow and result in more realistic decision-making.

The upshot? “While older workers may be somewhat slower to complete some tasks, their work product tends to be of higher quality than that of younger workers,” the Deloitte study states.

Businesses in which all employees, regardless of age and background, collaborate and learn from each often build reputations for being great places to work. In the end, diversity of any kind strengthens your workplace.

But as workers age, employers must be aware of their older workers’ limitations to ensure you’re following the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Older employees may have reduced strength, hearing loss, deteriorating eyesight, less physical flexibility, slower reaction times and other age-related limitations.

Under the ADA, employers must provide a reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities to meet a qualification standard that is relevant to the job and consistent with business necessity. A reasonable accommodation is any change in the position or workplace that is customarily made to provide an employee with impairment access to equal employment opportunities.

“A person who has medical conditions often associated with age, such as osteoporosis, arthritis, hearing loss, or hypertension, can be considered as having an impairment on the basis of the medical condition,” writes Bryon Bass, of Sedgwick, which is a partner with Retailers Insurance Co.

Managing an aging workforce may mean you’ll need to institute such accommodations – but you’re likely providing these already:
• Accessible work facilities.
• Personal attendants or service animals.
• Ergonomics and adaptive equipment to improve workstations: change the position and height of monitors, provide foot supports, three-in-one stand-sit chairs, or knee pads with shin guards.
• Longer breaks or more frequent shorter breaks.
• Mechanical assistive devices.
• Workplace design to reduce physical activities.
• Flexible work schedules.