It would have been unthinkable 25 years ago. But in late February, 20 industry organizations announced that they were banding together to share strategies for recruiting and retaining older workers. Yes, businesses that once couldn't wait to hustle older workers out the door and replace them with younger cheaper people are now looking for ways to keep aging workers on the job a while longer.
What's responsible for the change in attitude? A looming skills shortage. By 2010, nearly one in three workers in the United States will be 50 or older. In the decade ahead, they'll begin to retire or at least step back from full-time work, leaving business facing a shortage of experienced workers and a potential loss of critical knowledge.
In hopes of slowing the brain drain to a trickle, the industry groups have formed the Alliance for an Experienced Workforce. Under the leadership of AARP and several other groups, the alliance will help the nation's employers create workplaces that successfully engage and use the skills of workers over 50. Alliance members will collaborate on strategies for getting the word out (about the looming skills shortage) and to identify best practices on issues like benefits, workplace design and recruitment strategies.
One of the organizations that has joined the alliance is the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). Technology companies would be at particular risk if a shortage of skilled workers developed, says John Venator, president and chief executive officer of CompTIA. "[A] skilled and experienced workforce is required to assure that technology is used properly," he says. "Employers that fail to attract and keep the age 50 and over workforce lose a wealth of experience, skill and knowledge that these employees have gained by performing work at each rung of the career ladder."