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Economy > Generational Hiring > Retention > Survey Results

Is Traditional Retirement Disappearing? How Older Workers Are Redefining Their Careers

Mature worker lost in thoughtHey, remember when retiring was a ‘thing’? Those were the days.” While hearing that phrase might sound odd now, the fading out of traditional retirement not be so far off the mark: Fifty-seven percent of workers ages 60 and older said in a new Harris Interactive© study they would look for a new job after retiring from their current company–a sign that these days, retirement doesn’t necessarily mean the end of someone’s career. Some workers are postponing retirement out of economic necessity; they just can’t afford to quit. Others, however, are in fact choosing to continue the nine-to-five routine, for many different reasons (which I’ll get into more below).

The survey, conducted on behalf of CareerBuilder and (CareerBuilder’s job site for mature workers and retirees) among 3,023 hiring managers and HR professionals and 878 U.S. workers ages 60 and older, also found that 11 percent of respondents said they don’t think they’ll ever be able to retire.

Despite that discouraging statistic, there are still a good number of workers who, although they may not be ready quite yet, believe they’ll be able to retire within the next several years:

  • 1-2 years (26 percent)
  • 3-4 years (23 percent)
  •  5-6 years (22 percent)
  • 7-8 years (7 percent)
  • 9-10 years (7 percent)
  • More than 10 years (4 percent)

More hiring on the horizon

As an increasing number of older workers are putting off retirement, whether by choice or financial necessity, the timing of many employers couldn’t be better: Many of them are looking to hire within the 50-and-older demographic. This is great news, because as we’ve discussed previously, many older workers who want or need to continue working are unable to do so, simply because they can’t find an employer who will hire them. According to the survey:

  • 43 percent of employers plan to hire workers ages 50 and older this year.
  • 41 percent said they hired workers ages 50 and older in 2011.
  • 75 percent of the employers surveyed would consider an application from an overqualified worker who 50 or older, with 59 percent of those employers saying they would do this because mature candidates bring a wealth of knowledge to an organization and can mentor others. (Note: Older workers have been found to have a host of other advantages as well, including quitting less, being absent less, and having better social skills and job performance than their younger counterparts).
As Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, points out, many workers are moving away from a traditional “retirement” concept and instead seeking “rehirement”:

“Whether mature workers are motivated by financial concerns or simply enjoy going to work every day, we’re seeing more people move away from the traditional definition of retirement and seek ‘rehirement.’ At the same time, employers are seeing the value these mature workers can bring to an organization, from their intellectual capital to their mentoring and training capabilities. In a highly competitive job market, mature workers can use these skills to their advantage.”


Finding out what older workers want

With more companies seeking the unique skills older workers offer, it’s vital for companies to know (or learn) what these workers want. Many of them want to keep working to stay active, keep busy and be social. They also want things like a friendly work environment, a chance to use their skills and depth of experience, respect from coworkers, the opportunity to learn, and a way to help others and do something meaningful.

When it comes to benefits, many older workers are seeking adequate paid time off, health care and insurance coverage, and a flexible schedule (doesn’t sound much different than what workers of all generations are seeking, does it?)

I recently saw lawyer Simon Heath speak at 2012′s HRPA conference about  older workers and age discrimination, and he also shared a few examples of methods employers may need to consider when accommodating older employees in the workplace:

  • Flexible hours and conditions of work (i.e. compressed work weeks, flex time, and telecommuting).
  • Part-time arrangements and job sharing, which both allow for a transition to retirement.
  • Employing workers who have already retired on short term and/or fixed term contracts.

Managing a multi-generational workforce

While things may be moving in a positive direction for older workers when it comes to being hired–or “rehired” – an older workforce is creating many age-related changes in the workplace that many companies aren’t prepared to deal with. How can employers make a multi-generational workplace smoother for a generation that’s no longer retiring?

As Peter Cappelli, co-author of Managing the Older Worker: How to Prepare for the New Organizational Order, discussed at SHRM this past year, organizations can take steps to better work with older workers in their organization:

  • Tailor your rewards and benefits to their lifestyle and interests: The promotion, bonus or stock options don’t matter as much to older workers, as mentioned above. Instead, provide motivation through meaningful work and social relationships; these factors are a bigger priority for older workers than financial- or career advancement-motivated rewards.
  • Consult and empower them: Older workers want to be consulted, so ask them to participate in the decision process on a project or challenge a bit more. They have experience behind them and wisdom to solve many workplace problems, so ask them to get involved.
  • Don’t ignore them: Older workers don’t want to be ignored, and they still need to be managed. Remember that managing someone older doesn’t mean you’re giving up authority; older workers must be held accountable, too.
  • Initiate mentoring/onboarding: Companies like Deloitte have taken advantage of older workers’ unique talents by asking them to share problems they see in the organization that they’d like to work on and fix. Their attitude is, “If you think it’s a good idea, we will too, almost without exception. We trust you.”


Is your organization hiring more seasoned workers this year? What unique skills and experience do you see them bringing to the workplace?


Amy K. McDonnell

About Amy K. McDonnell

Originally hailing from Ohio, Amy is the editorial manager on the content services team and has been with both CareerBuilder and the city of Chicago for nearly a decade. She writes on a range of recruitment topics on The Hiring Site, striving to bring a dose of clarity and humor to sometimes complicated issues around employee attraction, engagement and retention. When she's not working, Amy spends as much time as possible reading, pretending to be a chef, writing short stories, eating Nutella out of the jar, waiting for CTA buses and trains, going to see her favorite bands live, and spending time with people who inspire and challenge her.

This article is only correct in one area that I read. First, yes mature workers are realizing that they will not be able to retire because most of them have lost their jobs over the last 5 years and will never be able to live on SS if they even make it to collect. It is next to impossible for a person over the age of 50 to get a new job without knowing someone or having an in. I was laid off from what I thought would be my last job because this nationwide company that has been around since 1910 closed our business office that was located here for 20 years putting 15 of us out of work. Everyone of us was at least 58 years old. To my knowledge only 2 have found other postions and both were out of state. I cannot even get an interview because if they check me online they know my age with no payment or difficulty. So, my unemployment runs out in August and I will be screwed because I have another year before I can collect my SS. Am I the only one in this boat? NOT FROM WHAT I AM HEARING everywhere. This article is a joke and quite frankly from the picture, written by someone in their 30's. I can say this for myself and others that we are tired of bad reporting. Anyone out there working and in their 30's has absolutely no idea what is happening with older workers unless they are on the streets and in the unemployment office talking to people. Stop spreading these lies around making everyone else think that things are going well in this Country with our current government and the still lousy economy, PLEASE!


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