We Older Workers Have Much to Give

Anyone who has read my resume could do the age calculations, based on educational background and work history.  Hopefully, anyone who has seen me might see it a little differently.  What is that you ask?  Well, it is the fact that I can easily be called an “older worker.”

As such I am a little sensitive when I read stories of the younger workers complaining about the lack of jobs and advancement opportunities due to the fact that those older baby boomers will just not move on!  Many can’t leave because the economy of the last 5 years wiped out their retirement nest eggs, but many still have the energy and drive they had when they were many years younger.  Hopefully, my staff – most in my kids’ age group – is not quite ready for me to leave.

All this as prelude to say that positive stories about the benefit of older workers are always “music to my ears.”  Such a story appeared several days ago and I thought I would restate some of its findings just to remind my young staff and younger blog followers that there is value in the “wisdom that comes with longevity.”

According to a study, based on interviews with 650 company executives and benefit administrators and conducted for the Bank of America Corporation, “employers are sprucing up benefits such as flexible work schedules and retirement planning to retain older workers.  About 94 percent of employers said they think it’s important to keep older workers because the companies need their skills. Employers are offering customized schedules, education on retirement and health care, and the ability to work from home.   They believe that older workers are essential to the company’s success.”

“If programs and strategies aren’t in place you’re going to let all that talent and knowledge out the door,” said Chasity Miller, managing director of compensation and benefits for AGL Resources Inc. (AGL), a natural gas distribution company based in Atlanta. “We want to make sure that we retain talent and have time to transfer the knowledge to younger workers.”  Workers have been remaining in the labor force longer before retiring since the 1990s.  The shift from traditional pensions to 401(k) savings plans means employees may not have enough income at age 62 or age 65 to replace their earnings during retirement.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of people age 55 and older participating in the labor force, which means they are either working or looking for employment, was 40.3 percent in May, compared with 29.2 percent in 1993. The chart below shows the increase in labor force participation for older workers between 1990 and 2010.  Workers 65 years and over experienced an increase over this period from 11.9 percent to 17.4 percent.

While the thought of waking up in the morning, taking a nice long walk, and then stretching out with a good book in the sun – summers here and winters somewhere warm – is more appealing with each passing year (and sometimes every passing day), I think I am going to stay around for a little while longer.  While I know my retirement savings certainly can use every dollar it can get from my continued employment, it is the excitement of what we have accomplished at Data Driven Detroit in our short history and what we still have to accomplish that keeps me going.  It is the bright, creative staff that arrives each day with new ideas that pushes me to drive D3

Percent of Persons 55 Years and Over in the Labor Force, 1990 – 2010

forward.  We have spent the last 4 months putting together a strategic plan for Data Driven Detroit.  An important component of this plan is “succession planning.”  While I am sure the staff appreciates the skills and experience I bring to D3, the technology and skills that will drive us into the future belong to them.  When the time comes (and, once again let me say that it is not soon), my departure will come with some sadness but a great deal more confidence in a great future for both me and the organization.