How can small businesses stay competitive with an aging workforce?
According to the U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2024, a quarter of the U.S. workforce will be over the age of 55, and of these, a third will be 65 or older. Therefore, effectively managing an aging workforce is an essential issue for all businesses, but for small businesses, it can be especially important.
One of the most significant impacts of an aging population on small businesses will be changes in the workforce. As people live longer, they will likely work longer, meaning that small businesses will need to accommodate an aging workforce. This could involve changes in the workplace, such as more flexible working arrangements, as well as training and upskilling programs to ensure that older workers are equipped to handle new technologies and changing job requirements.
In this article, we will examine what small businesses can expect from an aging workforce and what steps they can take to ensure they remain competitive.
According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), there are currently 31.7 million small businesses in the United States, accounting for 99.9% of all businesses. These businesses employ 60.6 million people, representing almost half of the country’s private workforce. As the world’s population ages and people live longer, small businesses will have to adapt to this new reality.
Another challenge facing small businesses is the changing demographics of their customer base. As the population ages, businesses will need to adapt to the changing needs and preferences of older customers. For example, healthcare and senior care services are expected to grow in demand as the population ages, presenting opportunities for small businesses that specialize in these areas.
Invest in Training and Development Opportunities
To stay competitive, small businesses will need to invest in new technologies and innovation. This is particularly important in industries that are likely to be disrupted by an aging workforce, such as healthcare, financial services, and retail. Small businesses that can develop and implement new technologies to meet the needs of an aging population are likely to be successful.
Investing in training opportunities for older employees will ensure that they are up-to-date on current industry trends and advances in technology. This will help them remain productive and competitive as they continue to work longer hours while also motivating younger generations to stay with the company longer.
Here are some of the ways businesses can invest in training and development opportunities for their aging workforce:
On-the-job training gives workers the chance to learn new skills right on the job rather than having to take formal classes outside of work hours. This makes it easier for those with a busy schedule to pick up a new skill set without taking too much time away from home, providing them with an immediate opportunity to apply such information within their role.
Cross Training Programs
Cross training programs provide staff members with experience in different areas of the company, increasing their potential value and helping them stay flexible across multiple roles. This is especially important as workers approach retirement age, allowing them the option of transitioning into other positions if needed.
Professional Development Courses
Providing access to professional development courses helps aging employees upgrade and develop new skillsets in order to remain relevant within their field and keep abreast of emerging technologies or changes within the industry. Investing in such courses allows young and old alike to be at the forefront of their respective fields while providing older individuals with pathways towards continued success even after they have retired from active service.
Implement Flexible Working Arrangements
Giving employees more flexibility when it comes to their working arrangements enables them to meet personal responsibilities while still contributing effectively to the workplace. For example, offering flexible schedules or remote working options allows individuals to take care of family members or maintain their health without sacrificing their career. This not only makes working life more manageable for employees but also helps reduce employee turnover and build loyalty among staff members.
As the population continues to age, business owners should consider implementing flexible working arrangements to accommodate their aging workforce. Offering such arrangements helps ensure that seniors can continue to be productive and competitive in the workplace, while also providing them with the flexibility to meet personal responsibilities. Here are some of the ways companies can implement flexible working arrangements for older employees:
Flexible hours provide older workers with the freedom to adjust their work schedule around other commitments, such as doctor’s appointments or family responsibilities. This allows them to remain productive within their own timeline, while still being able to attend important events without penalty or having to take time off from work. Furthermore, it can help reduce employee burnout and increase job satisfaction among seniors.
Job sharing allows two people to split a full-time job between them. This is particularly helpful for older adults who may not have the physical stamina nor desire to commit full-time hours but still require an income. Furthermore, job sharing promotes collaboration and teamwork between employees, creating a more engaged work environment for everyone involved.
Remote Working Options
Providing remote working options gives senior employees the ability to work from home or anywhere outside of an office setting. This eliminates commute times and overhead costs associated with traveling into a workplace each day, allowing individuals more freedom when it comes to taking care of personal matters or maintaining their health while still making progress on projects from afar.
Review Existing Benefits Packages to Ensure They Meet the Needs of Aging Employees
Small businesses will need to consider the financial implications of an older (and more experienced) workforce. As people live longer, they will require more financial planning and investment to ensure they can support themselves throughout their extended lifetimes. Retirement plans should be reviewed regularly in order to ensure that they are sufficient for older workers who may need additional income beyond Social Security payments due to mounting medical expenses or other costs of living associated with aging.
Companies should consider increasing benefits offered by retirement plans at regular intervals so that individuals can receive higher payouts over time, ensuring financial stability during their later years of life. Reviewing existing benefits packages can help employers determine whether or not they are providing adequate support for their senior workers and identify areas where changes might be needed. Here are just a few things companies should consider when reviewing existing benefit packages for aging employees:
Health insurance should cover all of the medical necessities associated with aging, including prescription drugs and other treatments. Employers should also consider increasing coverage allowances, as older adults typically incur higher health care costs than their younger counterparts.
Retirement planning is especially important as an aging workforce approaches retirement age. Companies should assess how much money their senior employees will need in order to remain financially secure after they retire, and adjust plan contributions accordingly. Reviewing retirement plans ensures that individuals have adequate income post-retirement, allowing them the peace of mind to enjoy their years following work life without financial worry.
Long-Term Care Benefits
Investigating long-term care benefits can provide additional assistance for aging employees who may require ongoing assistance in order to remain independent at home or in a nursing facility. Providing such benefits can alleviate some financial burden from family members while taking into account individual medical needs or disabilities.
An aging workforce brings significant opportunities to an organization. Below are just a few of the many benefits of an aging workforce.
- Experience and Expertise: With age comes experience and expertise. Older workers often have a wealth of knowledge and skills acquired over the course of their careers. This can be invaluable to an organization, as it allows them to tap into a deep well of knowledge and insights that can be difficult to find elsewhere. Older workers can mentor younger workers and help transfer knowledge to the next generation of employees.
- Work Ethic and Commitment: Older workers are often very committed to their jobs and have a strong work ethic. They have often spent years building their careers and take pride in their work. This level of commitment can help to foster a strong work culture within an organization and can inspire younger workers to be more dedicated to their jobs.
- Reduced Turnover and Training Costs: An aging workforce can also help to reduce turnover and training costs. Older workers are often more stable and less likely to switch jobs frequently. This means that an organization can benefit from a more stable workforce and spend less time and money on recruiting and training new employees.
By leveraging the experience and expertise of older workers and creating a workplace culture that values commitment and dedication, organizations can reap many benefits from an aging workforce. With the workforce starting to age gradually, it will offer opportunities for those who can adapt and innovate.
As long as small businesses are willing to invest in new technologies, upskill their workforce, and understand the changing needs of their customers, companies can ensure they remain competitive in an aging world.
- Small Business Administration, “Frequently Asked Questions,”
- United States Census Bureau, “The Older Population: 2010,”
- PwC, “The longevity economy: How businesses must adapt to an older world”