The Upsides of Accommodating an Aging Workforce

The Upsides of Accommodating an Aging Workforce Mk2010, via Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. workforce is aging, according to Michael North and Hal Hershfield in the Harvard Business Review—and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If companies adapt to the change in demographics appropriately, they may see “tangible improvements in retention and productivity,” they say. The authors note several high-profile companies have seen a decrease in turnover, absenteeism and an increase in productivity since actively recruiting older employees or catering to them.

Here are some of their tips on how to accommodate older workers:


North and Hershfield admit that retirement issues are “stagnant” at the policy level, but suggest being proactive when it comes to modifying exit schemes. One option is a phased-retirement program in which workers are employed part time and also draw on their retirement funds, so they still earn a full salary and benefits. “Meanwhile, the company avoids having to hire expensive temporary workers and retains talented employees in areas where skills are scarce,” they explain.

Soft Skills

The authors suggest certain key pieces of a good worker’s toolbox, such as loyalty, competence and common sense, tend to be more common among older workers. By emphasizing and rewarding these traits, the company is naturally prioritizing older workers in hiring and promotions.


“Although not all older workers are feeble, companies can and should adapt for those who need some extra support,” suggest North and Hershfield. Inexpensive and easy tweaks, such as wooden floors, custom shoes and easier-to-read computer screens, can go a long way in increasing older employee comfort and health and prolonging their working life, they say.

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