The last 18 months have not been all doom and gloom. Amid all the challenges relating to COVID-19 and the economy, there have been some green shoots. People across the world have shown how adaptable and resourceful they are as they confront a deadly pandemic. While many older workers lost their jobs as businesses and borders closed, others were asked to come out of retirement and share their expertise.
European countries, Canada, and the United States all issued urgent calls for medical professionals who had either retired or taken career breaks. According to an article published in the Harvard Business Review, retired technology professionals were also in high demand in the United States.
It’s clear why there was a shortage of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. However, it may be a bit of a surprise that there was a need for technology professionals skilled in COBOL – one of the older programming languages. As it turns out, many states use this language to process unemployment claims which spiked in response to the pandemic.
Even before this healthcare crisis, the tech industry was focusing on bringing former employees back into the workforce. However, the way in which mature employees were embraced in a time of severe labor shortages has implications for the future.
Traditionally, employers and hiring managers were reluctant to hire people over the age of 50. Many older people were forced into retirement before they were ready, and while they still had a lot to offer. That’s because employers assumed that they lacked the skills needed in today’s environment or they were no longer interested in contributing to the organization. Some felt that they were overqualified or too costly to hire and retain. These concerns have become less important during the pandemic.
Employers quickly realized just how much 50-plus employees have to offer. Not only do they have lots of institutional knowledge and work experience, but they’re more mature in their thinking and more likely to be dedicated to their employers. They often have life experience that allows them to make a unique contribution along with well-developed interpersonal and problem-solving skills.
In some places, nurses benefited from fast-tracked license renewals and refresher programs so they could enlist in the battle against COVID-19. Meanwhile, technology professionals were called out to work with a coding language that many dismiss in recent times. Many large-scale computer systems have COBOL at their core, so these workers were able to provide much-needed support.
This reintegration into the workforce seems to have paid off. Professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, David Grabowski, supports the re-entry of nurses and doctors into the workforce and suggests that it should now be done in a more formalized way.
The STEM Reentry Task Force may be a good model to follow. This initiative is aimed at increasing the number of women in technical roles in the STEM sector. It offers to support to individuals who are returning after a career breakthrough professional internships known as “returnships” or full-time “return to work” programs. The arrangements make the transition to employment easier for people who have been out of the workforce. Not only do they get mentorship, but they benefit from the support of peers who are in a similar situation.
Many high-performing professionals are forced to take career breaks because of familial responsibilities or other challenges. Without formal re-entry programs, it can be difficult for them to re-enter the workforce when they’re ready. Paypal, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and JPMorgan Chase are among those organizations offering paid programs for people who have been out of the workforce for some time.
With the pandemic drawing attention to the tremendous skills and knowledge that retired workers possess, it’s probably only a matter of time before other organizations across the world follow suit.
If you want your organization to benefit from the talents of mature workers, you need to learn how to meet their needs. At WiseForce Advisors, we can help you to assess your current policies and practices and then advise you on how you can adapt your recruitment and employee retention strategies. We’re an age management consultancy firm, and we know how much businesses stand to gain if they invest in the older workforce. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org today to schedule a consultation.