Friday, December 28, 2007

MetLife Reports on Profile of Boomers Turning 62 in 2008

As the first Americans of the baby boom generation turn 62 and thus become eligible for early Social Security benefits, MetLife has released a report profiling these boomers, including their finances, retirement plans, and more. According to the survey report--"Boomers Ready to Launch", 31% plan to apply for Social Security when they turn 62, and 32% say they will wait until age 66 or beyond when they can receive full benefits.

In addition, 68% say they have employee or retiree health insurance. Forty-seven percent are covered by a defined benefit plan, 50% have a 401K, 50% have an IRA.

Source: MetLife Mature Market Institute News Release (December 27, 2007)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

EEOC Rules that ADEA Is No Barrier to Employers Coordinating Health Plans with Medicare

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has published a final rule allowing employers that provide retiree health benefits to continue the longstanding practice of coordinating those benefits with Medicare (or comparable state health benefits) without violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

Following a period of litigation arising from a 2000 federal circuit court decision that the ADEA requires that the health insurance benefits received by Medicare-eligible retirees be the same, or cost the employer the same, as the health insurance benefits received by younger retirees, the regulation now provides an exemption for ADEA coverage for the common and longstanding employer practice of "coordinating" those benefits with Medicare by supplementing the government healthcare or by offering retirees a "bridge" benefit to cover health expenses after employees retire until they become Medicare-eligible.
“Implementation of this rule is welcome news for America’s retirees, whether young or old,” said Commission Chair Naomi C. Earp. “By this action, the EEOC seeks to preserve and protect employer-provided retiree health benefits which are increasingly less available and less generous. Millions of retirees rely on their former employer to provide health benefits, and this rule will help employers continue to voluntarily provide and maintain these critically important benefits in accordance with the law.”
Source: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Press Release (December 26, 2007)

Other Sources: Des Moines Register "Don't make it harder to give health benefits to retirees" (January 2, 2008); AARP News Release (December 27, 2007)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

New Hampshire: State Groups Meet on Aging Issues

Public officials, nonprofit executives and public policy advocates met in December for an in-depth discussion about New Hampshire's aging work force, the looming challenges posed by baby-boomer retirement, and ways to make it easier for older Americans to remain engaged in their communities. According to U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford, who leads Experience Wave, a campaign supported by The Atlantic Philanthropies, working in Congress and state legislatures to advance the interests of mid-life and older workers and volunteers:
Their desire to stay involved presents a greater opportunity for businesses, nonprofits, communities, and the federal and state governments. In fact, we cannot afford to miss this opportunity to engage experienced older workers in continued employment and civic service.
Experience Wave wants New Hampshire legislative leaders to think about the state's aging workforce and what can be done to help baby boomers continue to participate in the economy as they approach retirement age.

Sources: SeacoastOnline "Keeping baby boomers involved" (December 21, 2007); Boston Globe "Advocacy groups wants to keep older workers engaged" (December 20, 2007)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Aging Workforce Number Two Concern of Electric Utility Industry

While service reliability continued to rank as the No. 1 overall concern of the electric utility industry in 2007, according to an annual survey conducted by Black & Veatch, a leading global engineering, consulting and construction company, the aging workforce moved up to No. 2 from No. 5 in in the 2006 survey. The survey--2007 Strategic Directions in the Electric Utility Industry Survey--reports on the opinions, activities, and future plans of energy companies in the North American power industry.

Independently-operated utilities have started to implement new hiring/training programs to address the issue. However, municipals and "others" still rely heavily on existing hiring and training practices. Other approaches, including automation, outsourcing and new knowledge management systems continue to rank lower among the survey's respondents.

Source: Black & Veatch Press Release (December 18, 2007)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Conference Board Launches Mature Workforce Employer-Practices Locator

The Conference Board has launched an Employer-Practices Locator--a web-based database that enables employers, reporters, and researchers to locate examples of specific actions companies have taken to address the challenges presented by the mature workforce.

According to the Conference Board, the Locator is searchable by key word or company name. The database selects, pulls together, and summarizes material from a variety of print and online sources from 1996 to the present. It delivers a more select list of results than a user would get using a search engine such as Google or Yahoo. It includes a broader range of companies and industries than the perennial examples that are most frequently cited.
"The database answers the question: 'Who is doing what in the fast-growing world of the mature workforce,'" says Linda Barrington, Director of Research for The Conference Board. "Any employer working with this important labor sector-or writing about it-will find the Locator a valuable shortcut to a wealth of real-world examples of what can and is being done."
Industries covered in the database include healthcare, utilities, transportation, chemicals, manufacturing, and government. The search result output includes the citation for each reference, its length and a summary of its content including companies mentioned and related key words. A URL is also provided, when available, so the user can click through to the source.

Source: Conference Board Press Release (December 17, 2007)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Conference Board Suggests Strategic Business Opportunity in Reinventing Aging Workforce

According to a report from The Conference Board, despite warnings of disaster tied to the impending retirement of the first wave of baby boomers, smart companies can actually benefit from this change in the workforce if they plan carefully. Specifically, companies need to analyze their own employee data. Mary B. Young, Senior Research Associate, The Conference Board, and author of the report, says that is "the only way to accurately forecast whether aging and retirement will impact their workforce and, if so, exactly when and where. Once employers know that, they can take the appropriate actions, rather than under- or over-reacting."

Based on a case-study methodology to investigate the aging workforce and its ramifications, the report--"Gray Skies, Silver Linings: How Companies are Forecasting, Managing, and Recruiting a Mature Workforce"--draws several practical conclusions:
  • Organizations can use strategic workforce planning to assess the impact of approaching retirements on their ability to execute business strategy;
  • Companies that effectively manage mature workers treat them with respect, discern their needs rather than making assumptions, and offer such benefits as flexible work arrangements, affinity groups, and financial and retirement planning;
  • Recruiting mature workers may not even be on the radar screen for some companies, but it's a priority for employers who face a shrinking supply of younger workers, or who want a workforce that mirrors their mature customer base;
  • Knowledge transfer from mature and/or retiring workers to younger staff is key to preparing for inevitable retirements; and
  • Through partnerships with other employers, government programs and nonprofits, companies can get more bang for their buck when forecasting, managing and recruiting mature workers.
Source: Conference Board Press Release (December 13, 2007)

Research: Generational Differences in Perceptions of Older Workers

According to a new paper published by the Center on Aging and Work/Workplace Flexibility at Boston College, older workers are very positive about themselves and the company they work for, but are more likely to perceive that younger workers are given preference in training and development opportunities.

Authored by Jacquelyn B. James, Ph.D., Jennifer E. Swanberg, Ph.D., and Sharon P. McKechnie, Ph.D., the research underlying the paper--"Generational Differences in Perceptions of Older Workers’ Capabilities"--focused on two questions: (1) How do Traditionalist Generation workers rate themselves in comparison to how Baby Boom workers, and Generation X and Y workers rate them on 11 characteristics deemed to be important qualifications for continued work in later life? (2) If employees perceive their workplace environment to be less likely to offer opportunities for training and promotion for older workers, what effect does this have on their own well-being, and on their commitment to the organization?

With respect to the first question, responses for six of the characteristics varied with age. Specifically, responses were significantly more negative with each successive generation, from Traditionalists to Generation Y for the ability of older workers to serve as mentors, seeing older workers as reliable, deeming them to be more productive than younger workers, seeing them as adaptable to new technology, eager for training, and flexible. With respect to the second question, employees from the three older generations who perceived equal promotion opportunities for older workers were all significantly higher in employee engagement than those who did not, but for generation Y, workers reported significantly lower levels of employee engagement when they perceived workers over 55 had the same opportunities for promotion as younger workers.
Managers have a complex balancing act to meet the expectations and needs of a multi-generational ρρworkforce. Many employees in the older generations still want and need training, development, and recognition for their work in terms of promotion. However, employees from the youngest generation can become discouraged if they see all the opportunities and promotions going to workers from the older generations. Determining which staff will be developed and promoted will have to be based on some transparent standard not related to age or generation. This issue is one that managers will need to handle carefully to ensure retention and engagement from employees of all generations.
Source: Center on Aging and Work/Workplace Flexibility Issue Brief No. 12 (November 2007)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Urban Institute Encourages Institutions to Take Full Advantage of Older Adults' Potential

The Urban Institute has released a study and policy brief, based on data from the Health and Retirement Survey, that shows that over 10 million healthy older adults with no caregiving responsibilities did not work or volunteer in 2004 and that about half of these were are under age 75 and 9 out of 10 have prior work experience. Accordingly, the Institute says, given this untapped potential, shortages of volunteers and workers should prompt employers and nonprofits to court this talent.

The paper--"Are We Taking Full Advantage of Older Adults' Potential?"--came to this conclusion after estimating the potential for increasing engagement among adults 55 and older. It defined engagement as working for pay or volunteering for an organization. The paper summarizes the literature that documents the key benefits of engagement at older ages, examines engagement rates among older adults and the characteristics that distinguish the engaged from the unengaged, estimates which and how many unengaged older adults would most likely benefit from increased engagement opportunities, and asks how well demand for older workers and volunteers is likely to mesh with supply.

Source: Urban Institute Policy Brief (December 13, 2007)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Law Firms Confront Aging Workorce in Their Own Profession

Elizabeth Goldberg writes in American Lawyser that as baby boomers hit their 60s, U.S. law firms are trying to keep the most experienced and talented ones from walking out the door. She tells older lawyers that are healthy and productive and eager to keep working, that law firms want them and are willing to help out with work/life balance, setting one's own schedule, and getting flexibility. She cites one study showing that boomers now constitute 70% of law firm partners. "Boomers will not only challenge traditional notions of when partners retire, but also how they do so."
Already, retirement age is a hot topic in law firms, especially as mandatory retirement policies have increasingly come under attack. In January the New York State Bar Association issued a report opposing mandatory retirement on the grounds that it is archaic and unfair. In August the American Bar Association adopted the New York Bar report and recommended that all firms end forced retirement. And in October, Sidley Austin settled a long-standing age discrimination case with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that included a promise to revoke the firm's mandatory retirement policy.
According to an American Lawyer survey of the top 200 firms, in 69% of them, 20-39% of the equity partners are age 50 or older, and at 23% of firms, more than 40% of the partnership is 50 or older. Furthermore, 64% of the firmsd have a mandatory retirement age, ranging mostly from 65 to 70.

Source: American Lawyer "Law Firms Face Gray Area as Boomers Age" (December 10, 2007)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Netherlands: Parliament Debates Plans To Boost Older Workers

According to news reports, in the context of a debate on the social affairs ministry budget,
members of the Dutch Parliament from across the political spectrum are drawing up plans aimed at boosting the percentage of older people at work. "Christian Democrat MPs want to combat the ‘negative image’ attached to older workers, news agency ANP reports. MP Eddy van Hijum, who is launching the CDA’s plan, says employers often mistakenly believe that older members of staff are less productive and take more days off sick."

In addition, Liberal party members propose scrapping the unemployment premium for employees over 55 and want an end to the age limit of 45 which has become the norm for jobs in the police force. Labour MPs want employers to invest not only in younger workers by making sure that all members of staff are legally entitled to extra training and are proposing a "no risk" policy for older workers which would free employers from paying sick benefits.

Source: DutchNews "MPs want boost for older workers" (December 11, 2007); "MPs back plan to boost older workers" (December 11, 2007)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Canada: Study Presents Value of Partnership between Small Business and Older Workers

According to a study conducted by Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), small business and older workers form a valuable partnership in dealing with the skills and labour shortage in Manitoba. CFIB reports that the study--"Small Business & Older Workers--shows that almost half of small businesses employ at least one older worker over the age of 60 and are actively taking steps to retain them.

The steps taken by small business to retain older workers include allowing greater flexibility with hours, reducing the physical demands of the job, offering part-time or job sharing options, and allowing unpaid time-off for activities/volunteering. The report's conclusion states:
Concern over the shortage of qualified labour among small business owners in Western Canada will likely continue for many years. While there is no silver bullet solution to this challenge, one solution is to improve the participation rate of older workers, to encourage older workers who have already left the workforce to return and to maximize the contribution of older workers in the workforce from a small business perspective.
Source: Canadian Federation of Independent Business
Media Release (December 6, 2007)

Internet Radio Podcast Series Launced for Jobseekers Age 50 and Over Who Need to Remain Employed

"Job Security 50+ How To Be Employable for Life"--a radio pilot program aimed at jobseekers over the age of 50--has been launched by Jackstreet Media and AARP. The program, cohosted by AARP's Director of Employment Security Deborah Russell and author Anthony Burnham, is designed to serve the needs of mature workers who either want or need to work beyond the traditional age of retirement. The program aims to help older workers stay on top of the skills, insights, and new resources needed to get and keep a good job at 50 and beyond.

Programs are streamed over the computer or can be downloaded to an mp3 player. and may be streamed via computer or downloaded to an mp3 player. Currently, there are monthly programs of around 10 minutes each. For example, the November 1 program was almost 13 minutes long on the topic "Thew New Face of Work in America" and featured James O'Toole, who served as Chairman of the National Task Force on Work in America.

Source: News Release (December 6, 2007)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Urban Institute Panel Discusses Benefits of Working Longer

The Urban Institute conducted a panel discussion focused the "demographic tsunami" that the United States faces as the first wave of baby boomers reaches the age of Social Security entitlement. "The decline in the ratio of working adults to retirees and rising health care costs will strain the federal budget and reduce per-capita economic growth. Increased employment of older Americans could help sustain economic growth and fiscal solvency."

Panelists addressed whether, in light of the recent reversal of the century-long trend toward lower labor force participation rates at older ages and while improved health, jobs' reduced physical demands, relatively lower Social Security benefits, and a continued decline in traditional pension benefits will encourage more people to work longer, will the right jobs for older workers be there? A complete audio recording of the opening remarks of Robert Reischauer, Urban Institute, presentations by Katherine Reynolds Lewis, Newhouse News Service, Eric Toder, Urban Institute, Barbara D. Bovbjerg, U.S. Government Accountability Office, Sharon Masling, Workplace Flexibility 2010, and Cynthia Metzler, Experience Works Inc., as well as a question and answer session is available.

In conjunction with this, the Urban Institute also published:Source: Urban Institute "Who Will Hire Me When I'm 64? Challenges in Increasing the Employment of Older Workers (December 4, 2007)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

United Kingdom: TUC Head Calls for Full Use of Older Workers

Trades Union Congress (TUC) General Secretary Brendan Barber, delivering the Life Academy annual lecture in London, called for employers to fully use older workers and the for the UK government to give older workers more choice about how and when they retire. In order not to waste the experience and talent of older workers

Barber presented four key dimensions to the age management challenge as part of the bold, imaginative policies that are needed to cover the full spectrum of issues:
  1. Invest in the skills of older workers. The TUC is calling for a right to retraining for older workers, with paid time off to learn new skills, supported where appropriate by subsidies for employers.
  2. Take a flexible approach to retirement--do not compel people to work past the state retirement age, but offer the opportunity to work longer for those who want to. At the same time, make retirement itself less of a dramatic cut-off point, less of a cliff edge.
  3. Do more to promote flexible working for all by coming to grips with how we enable everyone to balance work and family life.
  4. Promote well-being among older workers. Employers should make reasonable adjustments to enable older staff to perform to their full potential, backed by redeployment opportunities and proper investment in occupational health.
Source: Trades Union Congress News Release (November 21, 2007)

Europe: Expert Encourages Labor Market Reform in Advance of Aging Workforce

The European Union needs to undertake far-reaching labour market reforms if it wants to be able to safeguard its social security system, according to a Policy Brief written by Fabian Zuleeg and released by the European Policy Centre. Otherwise, it is not clear that Europe's social security system "will be affordable with fewer payers and a disproportionate rise in the number of recipients of, in particular, pensions and health care."

At a briefing on the issue, as reported by Jochen Luypaert, Zuleeg said that employment rates need to increase, especially among women, older people, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and low-skilled people.
The EPC expert proposed to get rid of early retirement schemes, raise the retirement age and introduce policies that engage older workers in the labour market.

One of the proposed ways to avoid companies laying off older workers is to make sure that their wages correspond to their productivity, even if this means that older workers are paid significantly less than is currently the case.
Source: European Policy Centre Policy Brief (November 16, 2007)

Additional Source: EUobserver "EU labour market reform 'urgent'" (November 29, 2007)

Survey: Starting Salaries Rise as Facility Managers Age

A salary survey conducted by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) and Building Operating Management magazine shows increased compensaton as an aging workforce affects the facility management profession. According to Profiles 2007 Salary Report, the facility management industry is experiencing an aging workforce and a jump in salaries for those entering the field. Specifically, the base salary for those with less than four years experience rose nearly 13% from $56,000 in 2004 to $63,000 in 2007, while the median age of facility managers rose from 47 to 49.
Workers 45 or older increased from 62 percent in 2004 to 68 percent this year, with those 55 and older increasing from 20 to 25 percent during the same period.

While the average age of facility managers is on the rise, the number of young workers entering the field is on the decline. Workers 35 to 44 years old decreased from 30 percent in 2004 to 25 percent in 2007, with the number of workers younger than 35 also declining, from 9 percent to 7 percent. Only 2 percent of facility managers surveyed were 29 or younger.
Source: International Facility Management Association Press Release (November 26, 2007)