Don’t Take Older Workers for Granted

They say you don’t truly appreciate what you have until it’s gone. I can personally relate to that. My grandmother passed away last year and now that she’s no longer here, I wish I had taken advantage of more opportunities to learn from her wisdom.

Many businesses are experiencing their own losses – with the impact felt more on their bottom lines than in their hearts – as seniors retire from the workforce and take their knowledge with them.

Addressing the shrinking and aging of the nation’s workforce is at the center of the Workforce Wise initiative, launched by the Chamber in December 2009. We’re covering this topic with a five-part series in BizVoice® magazine. The current issue features the second installment, which focuses on training opportunities for older workers.

Sometimes, downsizing or a desire to switch careers prompts seniors to pursue training. Often, this happens in the manufacturing field, where people need to upgrade their skills to meet the increasingly complex demands of new technology. Higher education institutions often partner with companies and individuals to provide the training. Ivy Tech Community College’s work in this area is highlighted in the story, along with an organization called Experience Works, which delivers training and employment assistance to low-income, unemployed individuals age 55 and older.

What I miss even more than my grandmother’s cooking (she always lamented that her food didn’t turn out well while the rest of our family members were clamoring for her recipes), is her wisdom.  “What you worry about today, you’ll laugh about tomorrow,” she would say. That was one of my favorites.

Perhaps companies that prepare now for the retirement of older workers will have the last laugh.

The Implications of Indiana’s Aging Workforce

Ellen Miller, executive director of the Center for Aging and Community at the University of Indianapolis, discusses a lack of focus on maintaining older workers in a BizVoice video segment. To read more on this topic, see the article in BizVoice magazine on Workforce Wise and some interesting findings relating to the aging workforce.

Wise Up! Older Workers Have the Right Stuff

A new initiative from the Indiana Chamber Foundation that was released today has a cool name (Workforce Wise) and an intriguing logo (check it out on the report or web site). Even better — and on a much more substantive level — it includes very pertinent information to help address a growing workforce challenge.

That challenge is not new — the aging workforce. But this compilation of prior research, newly commissioned studies and additional input is comprehensive and looks at ways to turn the challenges into opportunities. You can read the official language in the press release and report. Here’s my view on key takeaways:

  • Employers, don’t lose your greatest asset (people who know how your organization works) because you weren’t prepared. Be flexibile, figure out ways to make it work for you and these key employees and you won’t be sorry
  • Employees, your job is to learn new skills and also adjust to changing circumstances (most of you are willing, and employers and educators are there to help)
  • Communities have a big stake here. People who continue to contrbute on the job and in society in general are far preferred to those who are shut out and primarily become users of public resources

A number of people put in a lot of good work to make this report possible. It’s one of those projects that can — and will — have a lasting impact. Invest a little time in the 32 pages, including informative charts. It will be worth the effort.