The ‘aging of the workforce’ sparked a great deal of media interest with the release of the 2006 Census.
15.3 per cent of Canadian workers are now 55 or older, according to Statistics Canada. And with so many people seemingly on the road to retirement, some experts have again warned about a pending labour shortage. With not enough younger workers, who will replace all of these retiring Zoomers?
But it may not be as straight forward as all that.
“You can’t assume that people aged 55 are automatically on the road to retirement,” says Susan Eng, CARP’s Vice President of Advocacy. “In fact, many people are choosing to work longer than traditional retirement age. This is because many are living longer, healthier lives.”
While some may continue to work out of financial necessity, many others are choosing to do so. “People want exciting, interesting and rewarding work,” she says. “For many, the issue is not so much the end of working, but the transition to a more satisfying career and the exploration of new possibilities. It is yet another example of how Zoomers – what CARP calls people 44 and older — are changing how people age.”
Protecting against a talent gap
It’s not simply a matter of finding enough younger workers to replace people who will eventually retire – but also finding people with the same skill-sets of more experienced workers.
“Zoomers who leave a workplace take their knowledge with them and their type of knowledge and experience cannot be replaced by what younger workers might find in a book,” says Eng. “The challenge therefore becomes to hang onto Zoomers and attract other Zoomers rather than focus only on younger workers.”
And when a worker does move on, a company should make sure to properly debrief the worker so as to capture the knowledge and informal networks they have built up, she adds. Mentoring younger employees is also important for passing on valuable skills and knowledge.
The Zoomer Advantage
The Zoomer group – which comprises both Baby Boomers who are still under the age of 50 and the rest of the 50-plus population – represents over 14 million people in Canada. No other age group comes close in sheer numbers.
Zoomers are the largest market for a number of industries, including travel, real estate, health and beauty, automotive, home renovation and financial services. “Employers who retain and attract Zoomers will gain a competitive advantage, especially in reaching this most influential and fastest growing demographic,” Eng says. “Zoomers account for more than half of all consumer spending and more than 70 per cent of all money in savings accounts.”
So what can companies do to retain their Zoomer workers?
“First of all, an employer should provide rewarding work that levers a worker’s knowledge and experience in an age-discrimination free work environment,” Eng says.
Including employees in company benefits and pension plans also provide incentive to keep working. “And as Zoomers look to make lifestyle changes, flexibility in working conditions such as part-time, seasonal and telecommuting can also be attractive to workers,” Eng says.
Public policy considerations
CARP says that a change in public policy could also help employers to keep their Zoomer workers. In particular, policy makers should:
– Encourage continued employment by relaxing pension and other rules
– Allow early pension payments while continuing to work as done in 2007 budget
– Allow contributions to CPP past 65.
– Remove mandatory retirement nationwide – by 2009, all provinces except New Brunswick will have removed it but there is no change announced yet for federally regulated industries.
– Change labour codes to protect workers over 65 years of age.
– Enact and enforce anti-ageism policies.
Read more about ‘Zoomers in the workforce’ in the May 2008 issue of CARP magazine.
Photo ©iStockphoto.com/Ian McDonnell