At 73, showing up to work five days a week in the shipping department of AIS Inc.—an office pod manufacturing company he’s been with for nearly two decades—was starting to be a grind for Bob Adams. He kept having to request Fridays off for doctor’s appointments to help keep his nagging diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol issues in check.
So last month, Adams asked for all Fridays off—a permanent four day workweek.
Employment agencies across the country are trying to retain and find reliable workers at a moment when they can’t afford not to. Adams was granted his wishes by his employers. Adams can also request any work arrangement that suits his schedule. “I’m 100% sure that if Bob said he could work only two days weekly, we’d do that because we know his value to the company,” says Steve Savage, chief operating officer at AIS.
A growing number of employers recognize the importance of having older and reliable employees., This dynamic is a fresh way to understand. why 40% of AIS’s 750-person workforce is over age 50. It’s why AIS, Microsoft, Marriott, and Macy’s are among more than 1,000 employers nationwide that have signed the AARP Employer Pledge to promote equal opportunity for all workers, regardless of age. New forces are at work in the U.S. Economy, experts say the future for some older workers—many of whom are more accustomed to getting pink slips or buyout offers—might be brightening.
“I don’t know that it’s comparable to anything we’ve seen before,” says Susan Weinstock, vice president for financial resilience programming at AARP. “We’re living longer and staying healthier and continuing to work is a great antidote to social isolation.”
Many older workers, despite stereotypes, are eager to learn. Two-thirds (33%) of older workers are still learning. Weinstock advises those who are interested in further training.
Companies are increasingly realizing the financial benefits of hiring older workers and keeping them. “Whatever business you are in, if you want to do it best, you need to have the best talent you can get. How foolish to turn your back on top talent just because they had a birthday or have grey in their hair,” says Ken Dychtwald, CEO of the consulting firm Age Wave and author of What Retirees Want: A Holistic View of Life’s Third Age.
It’s not as if there aren’t plenty of potential older workers out there, ready to give working longer—or working again—a whirl. Dychtwald relates that when Dychtwald was young, his grandparents had reached 60 and the consensus was that they were at the end of their lives. But now, he says, we are living decades longer “so you’re looking at another 20, 25, or 30 years.”
According to Savage, AIS receives a huge return on investment when it nurtures Their older employees. Unlike younger employees, who can sometimes have problems with attendance, his older workers—who he prefers to call “mature workers”—are far more reliable about showing up to work each day. That’s one reason AIS’s shipping department just hired two new workers in their 60s.
In March, Microsoft took a unique step toward creating an age-inclusive workplace when it hosted a free, virtual seminar called “Include,” and the company invited Dychtwald to discuss what employers can do to be more age-inclusive. Dychtwald recommended a variety of actions, including flexible work hours, sabbaticals and retraining. older workers.
Microsoft’s age-inclusive reforms Include comprehensive coverage with no employee premiums; holding deductibles flat over ten year period; four weeks of paid annual Family caregiver leave is available. For employees who shift from full-time work to part-time work, the benefits are largely unchanged, according Kathleen Hogan (executive vice president of Microsoft’s chief human resource officer).
Marriott is, however, Focused on Offering flexible work hours for employees. Employees who have been with the company for 25 years or longer receive complimentary stays in a hotel. Marriott provides assistance in selling and buying homes for associates as well as their seniors family members. The company also offers a program to link employees with Sunrise Senior Living services, and some preferential rates.
“We’ve seen firsthand how important it is to learn from each other and embrace multi-generational workplaces,” says Ty Breland, chief human resources officer at Marriott International.
Older workers are the heartbeat of Huntington Ingalls Industries, widely known as America’s largest military shipbuilder. A quarter of the workforce is older. Of the 45,000 workers, at least 25% have worked for the company for more than 25 years. Bill Ermatinger, chief human resource officer, said that more than 1,600 employees have worked there for less than 40 years.
To help retain older workers—as well as attract younger ones—Huntington Ingalls built family health centers on its sites in Virginia and Mississippi, which are staffed by doctors, dentists and vision specialists who offer virtually all health services except surgeries. Another incentive that older employees in particular like: the company provides “wealth advisors” at no charge. Advisors can be reached by employees via phone Ermatinger offers financial and retirement guidance at all times.
“Why do we place such a large emphasis on those who have been with us for a longer time?” asks Ermatinger. He says that some ships take between five and eight years to construct. “It’s critical to have longevity in your workforce,” he says.
Back at AIS, Adams says it’s a big relief to no longer have to ask constantly for time off for doctors appointments, which he now regularly schedules on Fridays. But he’s in no rush to cut back his workweek any further. “Working here makes me feel younger,” he says. “Why would I want to change that?”
Adams’ father was a mill worker who was forced into early retirement, and Adams says his job at AIS gives him a sense of purpose. He says that his co-workers, both 30 years old, keep him engaged and connected to the younger generation. It is possible to, For example, an item that’s to be shipped arrives at his station and He finds it too heavy to lift so one of his younger colleagues rushes to grab it.
There’s one more thing that working into his 70s accomplishes for Adams: it helps to pay for his hobbies. Adams enjoys fly fishing and archery as well as woodworking. Adams also likes to gamble every once in a while. “By working,” says Adams, “I can afford to buy all the toys I want.”