The Balancing Act of an Aging Workforce
Our office of 27 employees is small enough that each individual has a major impact on our company culture. Yet we are large enough to experience trends affecting most American workplaces.
One trend is an aging workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 25 percent of the U.S. workforce will soon be 55 or older. Many baby boomers are interested in continuing to work well beyond normal retirement age. Most cannot afford to retire given the low returns on conservative savings and retirement accounts.
In the insurance industry like many others, older workers have valuable knowledge that reflects years of experience that is difficult to replace. In addition, respondents to a recent study on an aging workforce noted that older workers have more professionalism (71 percent), a stronger work ethic (70 percent) and more reliability (59 percent) than their younger counterparts.
In our office I find that managing the demographics is a balancing act. The act involves tapping the experience and knowledge of our older workers while bringing on youth to maintain an energetic and forward-thinking environment. It is important to have a wide range of ages to meet the differing needs of our clients and companies. I feel it gives us a competitive advantage.
Planning is always a challenge. You don’t know when an older employee might have a significant health issue, or just decide they have had enough. Attracting youth to the business is difficult as well.
The insurance industry lacks the sex appeal of many other industries for younger people. Additionally, it can be hard to show a young person a career growth path when you have people in higher level positions with no plans of retiring.
On the positive side, I enjoy demonstrating the mutual loyalty between our company and our older, often long-tenured employees by accommodating their needs and finding new roles for them to fulfill. We’ve achieved a nice balance between younger and older workers at W&G and the balance serves us well.
Unfortunately, after 27 years of employment here at W&G, I’m now part of the older bunch! Ouch!