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While some employers are determined to hire young workers, many smart business owners and managers have noticed older individuals have work skills and habits that make them especially valuable in the workplace.

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The percentage of older employees in the U.S. workforce is increasing. In the ten-year period ending in 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the number of those in the workforce age 55 to 64 will rise by 36.5%. For those over 65, the projected rise is at least a whopping 83%.

As the percentage of younger workers continues to shrink, it becomes even more important for employers to consider how they can attract and retain mature employees who have the skills needed. Given the changing demographic of the workforce, this is true regardless of the economy.

To help employers achieve the goal of attracting and keeping older employees, the AARP released what the association calls the "Employer Best Practices for Mature Workers." This report is based primarily on an extensive review of the applications submitted by the 35 winning companies named in recent years as "AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50."

These Best Practices firms include 12 hospitals, four financial services firms, and three insurers. Among the 35 winning firms are Deere & Company, Lincoln Financial Group, Minnesota Life, New York University Medical Center, Pitney Bowes, Principal Financial Group, Sonoco, Volkswagen of America, West Virginia University Hospitals and Zurich North America.

From the AARP study, here are nine "Best Practices for Mature Workers" revealed by the AARP study:

  • 1. Have a self-nomination process for job openings for career movement. Encourage employees to seek advancement and special assignments. Also, encourage managers to seek out opportunities with employees as part of the annual performance review process.

    2. Offer a phased retirement option. For example, allow employees to collect their full retirement benefits while continuing to work part-time or reduced hours while also allowing health and ancillary benefits. 

    Allow long-tenured and older employees to stagger or reduce their work hours, even to part-time or per-diem status, without jeopardizing benefits otherwise not available to part-time employees.

    3. Rehire retirees as temporary and replacement employees. Provide retirees with re-entry training and flexible schedules.

    4. Establish pools of retirees who can be called in times of increased labor demand.

    5. Give mature employees individual accommodations. Some examples:

    • The Principal Financial Group purchased a magni-cam to help an employee who developed vision difficulties. This way the employee, placing paper documents under a camera, could view them on a TV monitor.

    • Pitney Bowes retrained a mature employee who developed a chronic heart condition. The employee, previously in a strenuous job, transitioned to a less strenuous job that required computer skills.

    • At Adecco Employment Services, Melville, NY, a blind IT Help Desk Analyst got help to perform his job. The help included special hardware and software, and a workstation large enough to accommodate his dog. A buddy system helped the employee navigate through the building.

    6. Partner with local educational institutions. Bring classrooms into the workplace to make it convenient for current employees to receive training and upgrade their skills.

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7. Commit to a Lifelong Learning policy. Not only encourage employees to continue their learning, but actually hold them accountable for upgrading their knowledge and skills throughout their careers.

8. Have a job-sharing program.Allow employees who want to work part-time or fewer hours to share the same job.

9. Have a Flexible Spending Account program for employees. Allow employees to put away money for elder care, pretax. 

Example: Volkswagen of America allows employees to allocate $5,000 in pretax earnings to a Flexible Spending Account.