Older Workers Require New Workplace Flexibility, SHRM Tells EEOC

Nov 17, 2010
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Older Workers Require New Workplace Flexibility, SHRM Tells EEOC

Society Shares Employers’ Best Practices to Retain Valuable Asset

WASHINGTON, D.C., – Public policy encouraging workplace flexibility and phased retirement is needed to meet the challenges of an aging workforce, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) told the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission today.

“Public policy should provide a flexible framework so that employers are able to develop programs that address the needs of the workplace and of the older employee,” Cornelia Gamlem, a former member of the SHRM Board of Directors, said.

Gamlem, president of a Virginia-based management-consulting firm that focuses on human-resource issues, spoke about older workers — the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. workforce — on behalf of SHRM, the world’s largest association representing the HR profession. The commission explored the impact of the recession on older workers during its November meeting.

“The retirement of the 76 million-member baby boom generation — who begin turning 65 next year — will influence the U.S. workforce for years to come,” said Gamlem, former chair of SHRM’s Workplace Diversity Committee.

By embracing and utilizing older workers, she added, organizations can lessen the severity of labor shortages expected as a result of the retirements.

In a survey of HR professionals conducted in collaboration with AARP, SHRM found:

  • Employers are bracing for the loss of mature workers. One in five respondents said the potential loss of baby boomers would be a problem for their organizations.
  • Almost six out of 10 organizations have either implemented or plan to implement programs in preparation for boomer retirement.

To help educate the employer community on the issue, SHRM is co-sponsoring AARP’s free online Workforce Assessment Tool (http://www.aarpworkforceassessment.org), which provides a snapshot of an organization’s workforce and demographics and the programs in place to best use the talents and experience of its older workers.

Gamlem shared with the commission practices for creating workplaces that recognize the value of older workers and support their hiring and retention, including:

  • Workplace flexibility programs to enable older employees to work and balance their personal lives.
  • Business resource or affinity groups that allow employees to come together to discuss ways to make the workplace more accommodating to older workers.
  • Retention programs that provide incentives to older workers to allow them to remain on the job.
  • Knowledge-management strategies that help organizations retain the strong institutional knowledge held by older employees.
  • Reduction-in-force policies that make layoff selections based on the organization’s needs and the employee’s skills, knowledge, ability, reliability, performance and length of service.

Employers are developing effective practices, Gamlem said. But, she noted, “Employers still face challenges in some areas,” including conflict caused by generational issues and stereotypes and discriminatory comments.

Media: For more information or for a copy of HR Magazine’s special supplement “HR and the Aging Workforce,” (http://www.weknownext.com/topics/changing-workplace/00167-hr-and-aging-workforce-two-ceo-points-view) contact Kate Kennedy of SHRM Media Affairs at 703-535-6260 and kate.kennedy@shrm.org.

About the Society for Human Resource Management

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) represents more than 250,000 members in over 140 countries. The Society serves the needs of HR professionals and advances the interests of the HR profession. Founded in 1948, SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China and India. Visit SHRM Online at www.shrm.org and follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SHRMPress.

About AARP

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan social welfare organization with a membership that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world's largest-circulation magazine with over 35.1 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP's millions of members and Americans 50+; AARP VIVA, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP.org. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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