Use Demographics and Trends to Empower your Mature Clients
By Sharon Graham.
As dedicated employment practitioners, we often work closely with mature workers to ease them through their career transition. In our role, we’re often presented with the difficulty that older workers perceive in their job search. To our clients, employers may seem discriminatory as they appear to favour younger candidates over more mature ones. We empathize with the trepidation that comes with stepping back into a labour market that seems unreceptive and unwelcoming. We feel the pain of our clients and work hard to help them gain another perspective.
Sometimes, working so deeply in the trenches, we don’t give ourselves a chance to see the big picture and the positive future that lies ahead for our mature clients. We can take a proactive approach to helping older workers understand their increasing value in the upcoming years. By focusing on labour market demographics and trends, we can energise, inform, and empower them with new hope for an exciting future.
The definition of an “older worker” is ambiguous and changing. Years ago, we might have considered someone over 40 years old an “older worker.” Professional Members of Career Professionals of Canada are starting to observe a new trend. A shift in the last ten years indicates that many baby boomers are simply not ready to retire. Today, more often than not, we are seeing professionals who are 50 years old and up working productively in our labour market. Many of our clients want to transition into their next career and most are planning to continue their active participation in the workforce for many years to come.
A labour force projection study published in Statistics Canada’s Canadian Economic Observer supports these findings. According to the report, our Canadian labour force will endure a shift in demographics. Although we know that many baby boomers will retire from the workforce in upcoming years, this study tells us that by the year 2031, 25% of the labour force is projected to be 55 years or over. This proportion was 16.9% in 2010.
A very early separate report released by Statistics Canada indicated that, in the two decades before 1996, there was a steady decline in the share of older workers, but this trend has turned around. In the last ten years, the proportion of older workers has actually increased dramatically. It is anticipated that as more and more baby boomers move into their 60s, their share of the labour force will continue to increase.
From our clients’ real-life perspective, this exciting phenomenon is already in force. Deloitte performed a survey of human resource executives across Canada and found that most companies are having a tough time dealing with the retirement of highly experienced professionals. Many executives who participated reported “critical” shortages in a number of key areas within the organization. For most of these companies, retention of key people is a great issue. According to the report, “About one-third of Canadian employers currently can’t find workers with the skills they need to take advantage of existing business opportunities.”
The dichotomy between the shortages of key professionals and the availability of our clients who want to continue working to an older age is powerful. It creates a shift in the labour market’s perception of our older clients. Mature professionals are now moving from a “buyer’s market” to a “seller’s market.” As employers realize the greater need for older workers, they are working hard to find new ways to address gaps in their own business requirements. The excess demand for experienced employees over supply of older workers willing and able to contribute will naturally put our clients in a better position to negotiate employment compensation and perquisites.
Meanwhile, the increasing level of education of seniors is another exciting development. Employment and Social Development Canada says that 59.2% of those aged 45 to 64 years are post-secondary graduates. Compare this with the statistics going back a decade. Between 1990 and 2005, the share of seniors with a post-secondary certificate, diploma, or degree jumped from 18% to 31%. This trend is expected to continue upwards.
What this means for our clients is that as older workers continue to develop their educational qualifications, they will become even more marketable. Employers that continue to have a necessity for credentials will open up roles for our mature clients who now bring this supplement to their invaluable experience.
Based on predictions, our nation is anticipated to continue to experience a workforce shortfall in certain sectors. This, along with the shift in the ratio of older workers to younger workers, is wonderful news for our clients, because employers’ perceptions and biases must also change to meet their new employees’ needs. Older workers can leverage this by applying for and getting desirable roles in companies that need experience.
We practitioners must take a much more proactive approach to helping older workers understand their improving value in the upcoming years. We can take advantage of these trends to remind our older clients that they are filling a gap in the market by bringing:
- Experience from a lifetime that a younger worker simply cannot possess.
- Expertise to successfully overcome many hurdles that beginners have yet to encounter.
- Adaptability that can only come from the many transitions they have gone through.
- Maturity and emotional stability to deal effectively with tough business issues.
- Commitment to stay in the job and maintain loyalty to their employer.
- Integrity that is displayed through a strong work ethic, reliability, honesty, and values.
- Vitality that comes from loving the career enough to stay in it for the long run.
Benefits offered by older workers will not only fill a gap in the current and future workplace, but also give us a richer and more diverse workforce. In addition, our older clients can provide an excellent return on their employers’ investment. The offerings of older workers decrease costs associated with recruitment and training, while creating almost immediate results in the form of increased productivity and profitability.
Our older clients have a powerful voice – and organizations are ready to listen. By keeping up with demographics and trends, we will find that we can arm our clients with a positive outlook for the future. We can use these trends to energize, inform, and empower our clients so that they can continue to build a career that is rich in potential.