Staying Late at Work: The Aging Workforce & How Employers Are Adapting

The American workforce is aging and employers are beginning to adapt. A recent article utilized a series of national surveys and workshops with human resources leaders to explore this topic.

The first question the authors were interested in was the extent to which employers have observed an aging of their workforce. They found that 83% of organizations had a large proportion of workers who were close to retirement age, which on average was 63 years and expected to increase. Examination of federal government employees revealed that average age has risen from 44 to 47 in the past 20 years, and average retirement age has increased from 57 to 62. At least one organization took a stance to embrace this demographic shift by aiming to be the employer of choice for workers over age 50.

In examining the impact of an aging workforce, the authors found that over 70% of employers were concerned that workers retiring later would present moderate to significant challenges to the organization. However, many employers were also concerned about the loss of talent when such a large proportion of workers do retire. This concern was highest for manufacturing industries and lowest for retail and service industries.

To address concerns like these, about a third of employers have adopted policies to encourage workers to continue working, such as adjusting compensation, benefits, and incentives, and increasing flexibility. Over a third of employers had already implemented policies to modify working conditions and provide additional training for older workers. Policies to offer shorter hours, part-year employment, and alter jobs to reduce responsibilities were less common, but are currently the top areas in consideration. Offering a formal phased retirement plan, however, was not a common policy, with employers reporting it is difficult to administer and there are compliance challenges.

Employers across industries are beginning to feel the effects of an aging workforce, but most have yet to adjust their retirement policies. Organizations that aim to be the employer of choice for older workers may soon see this pay off as greater proportions of the workforce approach retirement.


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Clark RL and Ritter BM. Employer responses to an aging workforce. Public Policy & Aging Report (2020); 30(3), 113-118.


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