Tips for Recruiting Older Workers for Healthcare Jobs

Move over, millennials. The fastest-growing segment of the workforce isn’t younger workers, but older ones, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. By 2024, the government estimates some 164 million people will be in the U.S. workforce. About 41 million workers are expected to be over the age of 55, with nearly one-third of them being 65 or older. And although older workers are outnumbered by their younger counterparts, this group is projected to have a faster rate of labor force growth than any other age group.

The growth in this workforce segment is fueled primarily by aging baby boomers, the large number of people born between 1946 and 1964. They’re delaying retirement for a variety of reasons—some by choice, others out of necessity. They’re still healthy, so they might as well still work, they figure. They’re also better educated than previous generations, making them more likely to want to stay in the workforce. And, of course, the increasing cost of retirement looms large, as government benefits and retirement savings fall short of many boomers’ needs.  

So, what does this mean for your healthcare organization? As the healthcare industry continues to face labor shortages, these older, experienced workers represent an untapped source of potential workers. Not only that, their experience and penchant for being engaged can reap big rewards for your organization. The 2015 AARP study, A Business Case for Employees Age 50+: A Look at the Value of Experience, found this age group is the most engaged across all generations, which has positive implications for retention and overall business performance. “It takes only a 5 percent increase in engagement to achieve 3 percent incremental revenue growth,” the study authors concluded.

While many of the same strategies for recruiting and retaining workers applies here, others don’t. Here are some considerations to help you find and keep the best and brightest older workers for your organization.

Consider their work-life balance: Nurses and physicians approaching retirement age used to have just one option—retirement. Increasingly, however, healthcare organizations are seeing the win-win in letting these workers to step-down their responsibilities. By reducing their hours and workload, they can continue working while enjoying a semi-retired lifestyle.

Many healthcare organizations, including Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston and Bon Secours Virginia Health System, have programs in place that target recent and soon-to-be retirees.

At Beth Israel, employees who are approaching traditional retirement age can continue working with a reduced workload before gradually transitioning to full retirement. There’s also an option for employees to retire—for six months—and then transition back into a different temporary or project-oriented role.

At Bon Secours, after seeing success in offering reduced workloads to retiring nurses and pharmacists, the program was recently expanded to all occupations.

The key is helping these workers strike the right balance. They’re not interested in toiling away day after day. So, offering flexible work arrangements and reduced workloads, such as part-time positions and job-sharing, is key to recruiting and retaining them.

Design a multi-generational benefits package: It should be no surprise that older workers see health and retirement benefits as the most important employee benefits, followed by paid time off and flexible work schedules. Meanwhile, something like student loan forgiveness barely even registers on their radar. So, how can you balance the benefits scale for older workers, without being discriminatory? Think broader. Instead of student loan forgiveness and paid maternity leave, a multigenerational benefits package could include debt forgiveness, financial counseling, financial planning services and paid leaves of absence.

If educational sessions for employees are part of your benefits offering, also consider incorporating some that address generation-specific challenges. For example, many older workers are in the “sandwich generation”—that is, they are juggling the needs of both children and aging parents.

Create a culture of inclusion: Older workers don’t just care about the job; they also need to feel welcome in the workplace. But generational differences are real. Unfortunately, so is age discrimination. Despite your best policies and procedures to recruit and retain older workers, an unaccepting culture can unravel your efforts and even put your organization at risk for a lawsuit. This article from the Society of Human Resource Management Executive Network demonstrates the attention needed to create a culture of inclusion for workers of all ages.  

From using images of older workers in your online presence to rethinking the design of your work spaces to hosting age-inclusive employee events, there are a multitude of ways to eliminate ageism and be more inclusive in your workplace. Need help honing your multigenerational recruitment strategy? Get in touch with Peter Goodspeed, who heads HealthTechS3’s executive placement services division. With more than 30 years of experience building high-performance healthcare teams, Peter understands the unique challenges of today’s healthcare organizations. Email Peter at peter.goodspeed@healthtechs3.com.