I’m moving to Colorado.

Not really. But my goodness, the state is setting a leadership path for connecting employers with experienced workers over 50.

And that’s a good thing when you realize that that there’s a demographic shift under way and the world population is getting older. Employers must grasp and embrace it with strategies to keep experienced workers on board and on-ramps to hire them.

I’m not going to delve into all the reasons many of us will need to keep earning as long as it’s feasible. And that’s true not only for baby boomers and Generation X, but the cohorts coming behind us. Longer, healthier lives take a lot more capital to support as the decades click by and living to 100 is not such a big deal.

Read: Baby boomers face financial stress and age discrimination

That’s a fact.

The issue here, though, is the business case for hiring and retaining older workers for employers.

Myths persist about the high cost of older workers, their energy, their technological capability, and their enthusiasm for learning new ways of doing things.

What if employers viewed age as an asset? That’s the aim of the swelling movement in Colorado that started pre-pandemic and is gaining steam as we emerge from it. The advantage is that everyone gains from companies to workers, to the economy.

My colleague, Chris Farrell, recently wrote about Colorado’s forward-thinking efforts for Next Avenue and what we have to learn from its initiatives to hire and keep older workers. I encourage you to read his insights.

As he explains: “The Rocky Mountain state boasts the nation’s second fastest growth rate of people 65 +, a combination of ones aging in place and retirees moving there. One-in-four Coloradans 65 and older were in the labor market before the pandemic.”

Colorado has established the groundwork for persuading employers of the worth of older workers. The impetus was that before the pandemic employers in Colorado were struggling to find what they considered to be qualified workers. As a result, Gov. Jared Polis’s office aided by nonprofits in the state and private foundations took up action to persuade employers look to experienced workers as the solution.

That effort was somewhat revolutionary in an era of lip-serving to an openness to hiring workers over 50 and the “Nope, no ageism in our company,” wink, wink denial that is so frequently embedded in corporate culture.

Ageism is awfully hard to prove. But when you look at who is getting hired and who is being offered early retirement packages, it’s pretty clear that this is the ism that lingers in workplace cultures… deeply.

In full disclosure: I was recently the keynote speaker for a webinar, Age-Inclusive Management Strategies in Colorado, hosted by The University of Iowa College of Public Health and nonprofit Transamerica Institute. Funding provided by NextFifty Initiative. My topic: Finding Work After 50 and Rethinking Retirement. You can check out the video here.

The event explored the business case for hiring experienced employees (age 50+) and unveiled the team’s new tool designed to help employers implement age-inclusive management strategies (AIMS) and recruit and retain experienced employees.

It was based on a multiyear collaboration between nonprofit Transamerica Institute and University of Iowa College of Public Health The webinar was the next stage stemming from the research findings from the Colorado’s Above-Fifty Employment Strategies (CAFES).

Joe Barela, executive director of Colorado’s Department of Labor & Employment, explained to the audience a statewide strategy to connect employers to experienced workers and programs the state is offering to provide access to apprenticeships, training and skills development.

“There is much work to do to ensure that we don’t waste talent and every Coloradan worker can reskill, up skill and next skill to find a good career in our state as we recover from COVID-19 and prepare for the future work,” Barela said.

 “It’s no longer appropriate or acceptable or even relevant that we don’t realize lifelong learning has to be something that both workers learners and employers and government embrace,” he said. “We need to make sure that our workforce has access to skills training that makes them relevant to the work of today and the future.”

Applause all around. Read my MarketWatch piece on adult leaning here.

“We also know that as employers struggle to find talent that we need to look at different ways on how we prepare and recruit talent into the needed roles we have from hospitality to engineering, to construction to healthcare the way that we do this is really focusing on skills-based hiring practices that will be a wave of the future,” he said.

Barela finished up by saying that Colorado employers who don’t actively recruit and retain older workers who “will be put at a big disadvantage and lose out to competitors who have put thought and effort behind older worker recruitment and retention strategies.”

“It’s about more than recruiting and retaining older workers. It’s about creating a better society, a society which older people are not only seen, but fully appreciated for their talents and contributions,” Barela said.

Lee Wheeler-Berliner, Managing Director of Colorado Workforce Development Council, talked about ways to evolve to fully support the older adult workforce and discussed the success of the Council’s collaborations with partners like Change the Narrative and Skillful.

I was pleased to hear Wheeler-Berliner share information about the job coaching for older workers, career navigation and peer support groups that the state’s workforce centers are offering.

Lastly, Age-Inclusive Management Strategies in Colorado (AIMS Colorado) is a groundbreaking tool designed to support employers looking to hire experienced workers. Brian Kaskie associate professor, University of Iowa, gave a tour of the AIMS Colorado website, which provides in-depth information on the 10 best strategies to become an age-friendly employer, as well as tips and tools to implement the best practices.

Now for my top reasons to hire and retain workers 50+.

They’re more steady and not as likely to jump jobs than someone still gaining traction and climbing on up in the workplace. Plus, it costs more to hire than it does to keep and commit to developing current employees.

An experienced worker can typically ramp up fast to a new position without much supervision They have shifted and twisted many times along their career path and have decision-making acumen in their back pocket.

And they generally have the whole kit of qualities that shine with age from an ability to manage others to written and oral communication skills.

Plus, workers who have some of life’s challenges in the rearview mirror such as raising kids turn their energy and mission to their work in a way that wasn’t possible previously.

The truth is, for many workers over 50, it’s easier than ever to be a team player at this stage of the journey. The big ego days are behind them. They’re energized by working with a diverse crew of younger co-workers.

Age diversity increases organizational performance. Studies have found that the productivity of both older and younger workers is higher in companies with mixed-age work teams.

Finally, older workers play an important role in providing skills and workplace savvy to younger colleagues. It’s a two-way street. Each generation rubs off on the other. Everyone prospers.



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