Why the Focus Should Be on Older Workers

By Sharon Emek | May 1, 2017

Lately there’s been plenty of talk about attracting millennials to the insurance workforce. Employers are abuzz with plans to attract and recruit young talent. The only problem is the millennials aren’t showing much interest. A 2014 study conducted by The Hartford revealed that just 4 percent of millennials are drawn to the insurance industry when it comes to career options. So the industry is focusing a large portion of its efforts on appealing to them from a needs perspective.

That’s creating a different problem. While it’s important to bring young talent into the industry, employers may be missing a real opportunity that all but guarantees a high level of engagement and talent. That talent is already engaged and working.

It’s the boomer generation, and they’re about to walk out the door.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are roughly 693,000 insurance professionals who are 55 or older, a 74 percent increase in the age group within the last 10 years. By next year, nearly one-fourth of all insurance professionals will be within a decade of retirement. With them will go knowledge and skills that span decades.

It begs the question: Why are we not engaging the skilled workforce right in front of us?

Perhaps it’s because we operate under the false impression that older workers aren’t interested in extending their careers, that traditional retirement age is the rule of law. Yet every day, I see these retiring workers – “pretirees” – who want to leave behind the stresses of the job, but not the job itself.

We as an industry aren’t recognizing that. We’re losing top talent because we’re not accommodating their needs.

Needs of the Older Worker

Part of the problem in keeping older workers engaged lies in how employers perceive the workplace. Many workers aged 55 and older are happy to continue working beyond the traditional retirement age, but don’t want the commute or the long hours. They want more quality of life, and that includes cutting back on the time spent in the office and on the road.

Yet companies are slow to recognize this. All too often, companies don’t offer any type of step-down or half-time working options, nor do they consider the option of having workers contribute from a remote location. It’s a huge missed opportunity, for many home-based workers not only continue to contribute, but do so at a high level of engagement.

It’s also a disconnect in not understanding today’s older insurance professional. Today’s pretiree is facing a number of issues, including:

  • A better work-life balance: Many older workers may want to relocate, improve their quality of life, or just reapply themselves in a less stressful, more hands-on career shift.
  • Supplemental income: Retirement savings took a hit during the recession, and many boomers may not have adequate savings to last through their retirement.
  • Family pressures: Sandwiched between children who are struggling beyond college and aging parents requiring more of their time, older workers are finding more constraints on both their time and their finances.
  • The desire to contribute: Many retirement-aged professionals simply don’t want to stop working.

The Win-Win

It behooves the insurance industry to consider alternative work arrangements for its older workforce. Offering alternatives beyond the traditional business model can help older workers meet their retirement goals, family obligations and work-life balance. .

Older workers have plenty more to contribute, and they’re looking for alternatives to the traditional nine-to-five. The smart company will recognize these needs and accommodate them with remote positions and more flexibility.

Emek, Ph.D., is president & CEO of Work At Home Vintage Experts, a contract staffing firm that matches retiring insurance professionals leaving the regular workforce to other firms. Email: sharon.emek@wahve.com or phone: 646.807.4372, ext. 3754.

Topics Talent Training Development

About Sharon Emek

Emek, Ph.D., is president & CEO of Work At Home Vintage Experts, a contract staffing firm that matches retiring insurance professionals leaving the regular workforce to other firms. Email: sharon.emek@wahve.com or phone: 648.807.4372, ext. 3754.

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