SAN DIEGO — Many employers are focused on attracting and retaining millennials when they also should be concerned about older workers leaving their organizations, Bruce Tulgan, author and founder of management training company RainmakerThinking, said during a Monday afternoon session at the Argentum Senior Living Executive Conference.
He defined older workers as people born before 1946, the year the baby boom started, and “first wave” boomers born from 1946 to 1954. Collectively, those born in this date range make up about 8.5% of people in the workforce, Tulgan said.
“On one end, the workforce is aging, and on the other end, it’s getting younger, and in the middle, the prime-age workforce is shrinking,” he said. “This has implications for the whole range of human capital management strategy.”
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When it comes to older workers, employers already are thinking about succession planning, leadership development and knowledge transfer, Tulgan said. They probably are not thinking about the concepts of wisdom transfer or flexible retention, however, he added.
“One of the most valuable assets in any organization with older, more experienced people is the accumulated wisdom of experience,” Tulgan said. “Knowledge transfer is not enough. The human element is critical to wisdom transfer.”
One way to keep older workers at a company so they can pass along the wisdom they have is through flexible retention, he said, likening the concept to the military reserves.
“You don’t have to retain every little bit of them,” Tulgan said of older workers. “You can retain part of them. Put them in the ‘reserve army.’ ”
In addition to helping with wisdom transfer, he said, flexible retention can assist companies with succession planning and leadership development. And it also can help with employees and potential employees on the other end of the age spectrum, Tulgan added.
“You’d better get good at flexible employment or you will not be able to retain young people for the long haul,” Tulgan said to the audience. “And there is no doubt about that. But you do not have to teach your organization to be good at being flexible by experimenting on a bunch of young upstarts whom you don’t know well, whom you don’t trust yet and who are not up to speed. Why would you learn on the youngest, least-experienced people? But the oldest, most-experienced people, the people you know the best, trust the most and should be most afraid of losing — why not put them in a reserve army and also teach your organization to be flexible on the older end of the spectrum?”
A new report released Monday by Argentum reveals where senior living operators stand to lose the most if they lose older workers.
The job group category of administrative support had 13% of its workers aged 65 or more years, the most of any job category, according to the report, called “The Senior Living Employee.” This category includes positions such as secretaries and administrative assistants; receptionists; office clerks; bookkeepers, accounting and auditing clerks; and first-line supervisors of administrative support workers.
The second-highest job group for older workers is business operations, which includes positions such as accountants, auditors, human resources workers, computer support specialists and market research analysts.
Overall, 6% of workers in senior living are aged 65 or more years.
The statistics are based on an Argentum analysis of figures on more than 7,000 people who self-identified as working in senior living during the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community survey.
“In order to build awareness of senior living as a viable career path, we need to know who is currently working in our industry and understand their opportunities and challenges,” Argentum President and CEO James Balda said in a statement. “By analyzing available data, we are able to provide a snapshot of the senior living workforce and share the latest insight into the backgrounds of our valued employees.”
Argentum members can access a lengthier employee profile in the Argentum Quarterly Issue 1 2018; members can download the full report at argentum.org/aq.
The Argentum conference continues through Wednesday.