Meeting the needs of an aging workforce.

Author:Beidel, Bernard E.
Position:Best Practices

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 95 percent of Americans over 65 who are willing and able to work are working, either full-time or part-time. Employment data reveal a similar pattern in many European nations. In much of the developed world, in fact, the workforce is aging.

Many business consultants and economic futurists are describing this trend as the demographic "perfect storm"--the convergence of the demands and requirements of an aging workforce. Caught in the middle are employers, who must balance the need to accommodate older workers with the need to prepare for their retirement.


The implications for the employee assistance field of assisting the workforce as it ages and prepares for retirement are obvious. But the potential social and economic impacts of the aging workforce demand that EA best practices go beyond simply assisting employees and family members as they prepare for their transition from the workplace to retirement or to an "altered state" of employment. A look at a few of the major implications and service delivery opportunities for EAPs demonstrates a true value-added proposition for both the aging workforce and employers facing this demographic reality.

Sustaining skills. As employees age and technology changes, every employer faces the challenge of remaining competitive. Effective knowledge management is critical in this equation.

An EAP looking to provide additional value to an employer will find avenues to contribute to the employer's knowledge management strategy

We suggest EAPs address the ability of the employer to leverage both the institutional and work culture knowledge of the older worker and the technological advantages that many younger employees bring to the workplace--i.e., to blend the "generation gap" of skills that has emerged in today's workplace and presented considerable challenges for many employers and labor organizations. The EA professional's role in fostering mentoring and coaching relationships in the workplace can be a critical part of the employer's strategy to encourage knowledge and skill exchanges up, down, and across this generation gap.

Enhancing workplace communication. As the workforce ages and the global employment picture changes, several additional challenges are emerging. The values and expectations of people entering the workplace today can be quite different from those on the cusp of exiting it. For example, among many older workers...

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