Attracting And Retaining A Mature Work Force

By Tom Hale | September 28, 2010

Approximately 17 percent of today's workers are age 55 and older, and that percentage is expected to reach 21 percent by 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As the population ages, companies — including construction firms — are beginning to put programs into place to attract and retain these "mature" workers.

Older workers face several challenges when looking for jobs. Some of them will need skills upgrading to remain relevant to the new jobs being created. Some existing jobs may need to be redesigned to suit older workers. It may also be necessary to improve the working environment to be more age-friendly — the productivity of older workers may increase if the work environment is better adapted to meet their needs.

A number of major corporations are demonstrating that enlightened policies toward over-50 employees make good business sense, based on the 2007 AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50 — an annual recognition program that acknowledges companies and organizations whose best practices and polices for addressing aging work force issues are road maps for the workplaces of tomorrow.

Moline, Ill.-based Deere & Co. is ranked No. 27th nationally on AARP's 2007 list. The company also made the list the previous four years.

"We are pleased to receive continued recognition to AARP, as the award highlights Deere & Co.'s overall efforts to attract and retain employees from all segments of the population," the company says in a release. "It is also recognition of the company's efforts to provide continuing career opportunities for John Deere employees. This will be especially important as the company repopulates its work force."

John Deere values diversity in the work force, and provides career development opportunities for its employees, regardless of age. Deere's recruiting efforts focus on identifying the most highly qualified candidates, recruiting not only recent college graduates but mid-career candidates, as well.

Over the past several years, to stay competitive, the company has become a learning organization, with the tools and processes in place to stay on the leading edge of technology. Robust self-assessment tools help employees target their career path with more control over their development, to maximize performance and increase job satisfaction.

John Deere offers a variety of learning and development programs, including tuition-aide reimbursement for all employees, as well as flexible work hours for work/life issues, telecommuting and part-time work opportunities. The company also utilizes its retiree work force as a valuable resource to help the company remain flexible and responsible to customer needs.

Approximately 35 percent of John Deere's U.S. employees are 50 and older. Deere says it values the knowledge and expertise older workers bring to the work force.

Alberici's Approach

Alberici Constructors is well known for providing a broad array of construction and construction-related services in the St. Louis area and beyond. The company recognizes the value of the knowledge and experience of its more tenured employees.

"We have a long tradition of employee commitment which has resulted in a significant portion of the work force staying with the company until reaching retirement," states Alberici. "Continuity is one of the most important aspects of our success and in a great way is measured by the devotion of our employees. Several current members of our upper management team are employees in their early 50s who have been with the company for 25-plus years."

Alberici offers a number of internal and external continuing education opportunities. Since computers and other new technology may not have been used when some were in school, the "over 50" work force takes full advantage in external computer software training programs to acquire some of the same skill sets as their younger associates.

And in order to help facilitate the transfer of knowledge and lessons-learned from the "over 50" work force to the newer employees, Alberici has implemented an internal training program in which the "Alberici Veterans" help with the content and classroom learning experience. The curriculum includes Doing the Work Right — Part 1 (this session focuses on several aspects of basic project management), Doing the Work Right — Part 2 (this session includes further discussion of basic project management objectives), Getting the Right Work (this session focuses on mitigating risks and maximizing returns on a project), Financial Management, and Safety Training.