Do you have the right policies, procedures and benefits in place to transition employees into retirement, or transfer knowledge from one generation to the next?

As America’s baby boomers approach 70, a strong 45 million of them remain in the workforce.1 Not yet ready to pack up their desks and migrate south, the number of older Americans still at work is expected to grow at about 2 percent annually, or more than 3 times the growth rate of the overall labor force.2

This growing, aging U.S. workforce has created several new challenges for employers. For one, older workers cost more. From healthcare expenses to executive salaries, disability insurance and other benefits, employers with an aging staff must consider the potential significance of these items in their annual budget. Other challenges include intergenerational conflicts between employees, age discrimination, the physical demands of some jobs, new skills training and flexible work schedules.

While older workers come with more skills and on-the-job experience, organizations need to consider issues related to phased retirement, workers’ compensation, return-to-work and wellness programs as well as the transfer of knowledge from one generation of employees to the other. How is your company making changes in response to your aging workforce?

Assessing Your Potential Risk is the First Step

When considering this issue and its potential challenges and solutions, it’s important to do an organization-wide risk assessment first. How many of your employees are age 55 or older? Of them, how many have experienced a workers’ compensation claim, or applied for a leave of absence (FMLA, STD, LTD, ADAAA, or other state or federal leave), related to a chronic condition or otherwise?

Additional basic census data to collect includes:

  • How many employees age 55 or older are upper management, C-suite level or managers? Is there a contingency/succession plan in place aimed at transferring skills/knowledge if one of these employees takes a leave of absence?
  • Do you have well-defined job descriptions that include the specific physical requirements necessary for each job, and therefore a well-defined return to work program with potential interim tasks?
    In addition to understanding your employee population, knowing which critical skills your aging workers possess will be important to ensuring a smooth transition during retirement or illness. Here are some skills-based questions to ask:
  • Do you have a standard plan (or a mentoring program) aimed at transferring the knowledge of older workers to the next generation?
  • Does your company provide a phased retirement (full time to part time)?
  • Do you offer training/programs to upgrade the skills of older workers?

Understanding the state of your benefits, and how they apply both generally to your workforce and, as necessary, to the older population, is another way to prepare for tomorrow. You might want to ask:

  • Does your company allow for flexibility to work from home or another office location based upon personal circumstances, work hours or work schedule?
  • Do you have a wellness program? Does it provide information on managing chronic conditions?
  • Does your company allow for career flexibility (reduced responsibilities for older workers, job change/occupation shift)?

Once you understand the composition of your workforce and its evolving needs, a baseline for your risk will emerge, allowing you to develop policies, programs and processes with a holistic view of the organization. Ask your HUB broker about coverage lines, HR benefits and risk strategies to help minimize your exposure and maximize the performance of employees of all ages.