Employers Seek "Boomer-Friendly" Status

Tom Musbach

Unlike their parents or grandparents, many baby boomers aren't interested in retiring from work in their 50s and 60s. As a result, companies are making strategic decisions to support an aging workforce by providing flexible work schedules, telecommuting options, and other benefits to retain and attract candidates over the age of 50.

Some major companies, for example, post jobs on sites that cater exclusively to seniors. Others apply to make the AARP's annual list of 50 Best Employers for Workers Over 50.

The AARP Honor Roll

The employers honored by the AARP in 2006 include Mercy Health System of Janesville, Wis.; Yale-New Haven Hospital in New Haven, Conn.; Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. in Nutley, N.J.; Volkswagen of America Inc. in Auburn Hills, Mich.; John Deere of Moline, Ill.; and Principal Financial Group of Des Moines, Iowa. (You can find the complete list at AARP.org.)

Mercy Health, the not-for-profit organization that topped the AARP list, was singled out for offering numerous flexible options, including weekend-only work, nursing "float" options (work at different facilities or departments), work-at-home opportunities, "seasonal work" programs, and on-call assignments that involve a limited number of hours per month that can be expanded or contracted based on an employee's availability.

Health care and education were the most visible industries on the AARP list in 2006.

"Many leaders in health care are looking to experienced employees to help them deal with a massive labor shortage that threatens the quality of the most basic services they provide," said Stefanie Weiss, spokeswoman for Civic Ventures, a think tank devoted to career development for seniors. "We hope that leaders in education, government, and the nonprofit sector -- to name a few fields facing similarly dire labor shortages -- follow health care's lead, and soon."

No Shortcuts

Roberta Chinsky Matuson, principal with Human Resource Solutions based in Massachusetts, cautioned that lists like the AARP's are only one type of resource that job seekers over 50 should consult.

"Job seekers should keep in mind that many organizations have large public-relations departments that help their companies make it onto these lists," she said. "There are many great companies that never even apply."

She added that baby-boomer candidates should do their own research on companies and consult with friends and others in their network to get a sense if an employer is supportive of mature workers.

What Boomers Want

Civic Ventures, working with Princeton Survey Research Associates and the MetLife Foundation, recently asked 1,000 Americans aged 50-70 what type of work they aspire to. "Half of those polled expressed interest in jobs to help improve the quality of life in their communities, jobs that connect them to their passion in life, a purpose bigger than themselves, and other people," Weiss said.

Monique A. Dearth, president of Incite Strategies, an Atlanta-based human resources consulting firm, agrees that many employees over 50 have different priorities on the job.
"They are experienced employees who generally aren't looking to develop a high profile career," she said, "but rather want to leverage their past experience, feel valued in the organization, and contribute at a meaningful level."

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