Through our clients and the media, we are regularly hearing of labour shortages across Canada. Workers are retiring and leaving jobs at an unprecedented rate. According to the Conference Board of Canada, “More than 20% of Canadian employees are eligible to retire by 2026.” This is a serious problem that will make the existing labour shortage even worse.
According to Statistics Canada, in the third quarter of 2021, “labour shortages have increased across Canada in most sectors, with a concentration in low-paying occupations.” Workers are retiring or quitting their jobs because of burnout, work safety concerns, and lack of proper compensation.
From a human resources perspective, one solution to the labour shortage will be recruiting from traditionally underutilized talent pools, such as BIPOC, foreign-trained new Canadians, and the “Over-65s,” commonly known as “seniors”.
Personally, I don’t like the term “senior” because it carries with it a stereotype that suggests “well past their best due date.” And full disclosure, I am 82 years old, and I worked in the human resources industry for over 60 years and retired at age 77.
How can the Over-65s help?
While the Over-65s are one of the groups who are contributing to the labour shortage by retiring, they are also a group offering a lot of potential and from where you can focus your recruitment.
The question is, will people in this age group be interested? Yes they will and for a variety of reasons, including:
- Need for money.
- Many people don’t have pensions or they are not enough.
- People may still have kids in college or university and need a full-time income.
- They are in good health and enjoy the work and the socialization.
- Work gives many people a sense of identity and they want to work as long as their body or brain will let them.
Above all, many people in the over-65 age group have significant experience and knowledge that will benefit your organization.
Having established that there is real potential in recruiting in this age group, how can recruiters attract Over-65s?
First, employers must overcome any biases towards this group. These biases show up as:
- Age. The fact that someone has reached age 65 – a milestone that suddenly qualifies them for government pensions – doesn’t suddenly render a person incompetent and useless.
- Unable to learn new processes especially technology. Or, as the saying goes, “You can’t teach an old dog new Tricks.” Yes, you can. You just must know how to teach this group. They need time and practice to learn new skills. But they can do it.
- They will not stay long. They will stay for as long as their health permits and they are treated with respect. They are loyal and actually prefer to work for one employer for long periods of time.
- They will be off work a lot. In my work experience, people in this age group had attendance patterns similar to all the other employees.
Now that we have checked all the biases at the door, let’s look at how to attract people who are over 65 years old to work at your organization:
- Hours of Work. Many in this demographic are not necessarily wanting to work full-time or have rigid work patterns, so you’ll need to be flexible. Design the hours of work to suit the applicant. For example, for older workers with health conditions, an extra 15 or 30 minutes at lunch time or during the second portion of a workday will make it easier for them to achieve the desired productivity and it will meet accommodation requirements pursuant to Human Rights legislation.
- Financial Incentives. There are many ways to use money to recruit, especially to lure those with unique or hard-to-get skills. Some are:
- Signing bonus – given once the individual signs the employment contract and reports to work.
- Bonus for completing an agreed to length of time.
- Retention bonus – paid when the individual agrees to a new employment contract.
- Paid Benefits. The Over-65s have most prescription drugs covered by the Ontario Government. However, creating a benefit plan for dental and other health needs could be attractive to this group.
- Type of working contract. If possible, be very flexible in determining the type of working contract, be it full-time, part-time, fixed-time or on-call without impacting any of the other incentives provided.
- Work from Home. If the operation permits, allow the individual to work from home full-time or develop a hybrid plan. Avoiding daily commute to work could be very attractive.
- Respectful Workplace. To retain the Over-65s, like all the other employees, they need to work in a respectful culture that values their experience and the wisdom that comes with age. Also, they have options – one of which is to leave.
- Safe Workplace. For this group, a safe and healthy workplace is essential. This includes safe tools and equipment and especially support for health issues, both physical and mental. A flexible approach to accommodation is essential.
A flexible, creative and bias-free approach can go a long way to solving staff shortages by recruiting from the Over-65s group.
February 3, 2022.