The National Study of Business Strategy and Workforce Demographics study just released today by the Center for Aging & Work at Boston College offers another piece of evidence that it is critically important for organizations and individuals pull back the lens and broaden the work+life debate to include the need for flexibility across all demographics.
As the population ages and more workers face caring for aging parents and retirement, the focus must expand. How do we all find flexibility to strategically adjust our work+life fit in response to personal and professional transitions throughout all stages of our career? This includes finding a partner, and having a child, but also caring for an elder and retirement which historically haven’t gotten as much attention.
The study reports that if organizations hope to compete for talent over the next decade, workplace flexibility for all demographics including pre-retirees should be one of the key areas of strategic focus. Why? The study lays out some hard realities companies should be addressing now, but most are not:
1) “Economists expects significant increases in the percentages of workers 55 and older who will be in the labor force by 2012.” A graph in the study shows an expected 48% increase in the workers aged 55-64, and a -10% decrease in the number of 45-54 year olds, and only a 10% increase in 35-44 year olds.
2) Yet, even in the face of this readily available trend data, only “37% of employers had adopted strategies to encourage late career workers to stay past the traditional retirement age.”
3) What do these workers want? Flexibility. “Most older workers who say that they want to extend the number of years they remain in the labor force also say the typical 8-hour days/5-day week doesn’t work for them.” says Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, co-director of the Center for Aging and Work.
With the publication of yet another piece of research warning that work+life flexibility is a strategic business imperative and not just an accommodation for mothers, the conversation will hopefully shift. The goal is not to make the need for a new, more flexible career model a “retiree-thing”, but to say, “hey, this is a whole new way we need to think about how we define work at different points in our lives, and how the workplace needs to adapt to attract and retain all pools of potential talent in an increasingly competitive marketplace.”
Finally, for companies that are hesitating to integrate flexibility into the day-to-day management of their organization, the study makes this point, “Companies that do not plan for this aging workforce may find themselves suddenly faced with a loss of labor, experience and expertise that will be difficult to offset given the relatively small pool of new workers and the competition for new talent likely to result from so many companies facing the same problem,” says Mick Smyer, co-director of the Center.
In other words, companies will get hit from two directions–older workers who leave because they couldn’t get flexibility, and younger workers who won’t work for you because they expect flexibility. So, the message to organizations is you no longer have the luxury of waiting.
I would love to hear what you think. Do you see work+life flexibility as a talent management strategy for “everyone?” Does your organization?