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Older Workers Wooed by Flexible Schedules

Does your company offer flexible work options for older employees? Would you like to see more such options in your office? A new report could help your managers see the light.

The study – “Flex Strategies to Attract, Engage and Retain Older Workers” – comes from the Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College.  In 2011, the center launched a project of the same name to help determine, among other questions, whether companies are developing flexible work options for older employees, what shape these options are taking, and whether they’re successful.

The new report features case studies involving three organizations – Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington, Ky.; Marriott International; and MITRE Corp. – and concludes, among other findings, that employers can and should offer a wide variety of “flexibility” options to make the best use of older workers’ talents and help build a “healthy and effective workplace.”

The need for such options is increasingly evident. For some employers, the Sloan Center states, “the greatest concern is the increasing age of their current workforce and the ability of workers to remain productive; for others, the pressing need is how to replace highly skilled workers when they retire; still others focus on recruiting older workers or engaging retirees who can mentor new employees, fill part-time or seasonal positions, or provide specialized expertise.”

The case studies illustrate how flexibility strategies – and a wide variety of such options – can help older workers and their employers. For instance, Central Baptist Hospital, among other initiatives, offers its older nurses part-time, seasonal positions with health-care benefits to match those of full-time employees; the ability to move from full time to part time while remaining in the same position or level; and online self-scheduling that accepts requests for specific schedules and days off.

The results: turnover is “well below” the national benchmark for health care; the vacancy rate (the average number of vacant full-time equivalent positions divided by the average number of budgeted full-time equivalent positions) was 1.8% hospital-wide as of 2011; and favorable workplace satisfaction ratings among nurses age 45 and older increased to 88% in 2010 from 65% in 2006.

Karen Hill, chief operating officer/chief nursing for Central Baptist, summed up both the challenge and goal in this way: “Employees aren’t talking about full retirement at age 62. They want to stay on the job as long as they can contribute and have flexibility in scheduling and position. Our challenge going forward will be how to manage this and at the same time keep employees engaged and working in health care.”


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About Encore

  • Encore examines the changing nature of retirement, from new rules and guidelines for financial security to the shifting identities and priorities of today’s retirees. The blog also explores news that affects retirement, from the Wall Street Journal Digital Network and around the web. Lead bloggers are reporter Catey Hill and senior editor Jeremy Olshan. Other contributors include The Wall Street Journal’s retirement columnists Glenn Ruffenach and Anne Tergesen; the Director for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Alicia Munnell; and the Director of Research for Pinnacle Advisory Group, Michael Kitces, CFP.