Workforce trends small business owners should know about

The make-up of your small business team may change based on important workforce trends.

The make-up of your small business team may change based on important workforce trends.

As everyone knows, the most valuable asset in any small business is its employees. Having knowledgeable employees who are dedicated to providing a superior customer experience is essential in today’s competitive economy. Such employees build customer loyalty and positive word of mouth, which is the best marketing any small business can have.

As we kick off 2016, here’s a look at emerging trends that small business owners can leverage to build a strong workforce:

• Older workers are delaying retirement. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 1985 to 2014, the rate of participation in the labor force for people 65 to 69 increased from about 18% to almost 32%. That’s a whopping increase! And it’s not unusual these days to see people still working well into their seventies.

Baby boomers are continuing to work past the usual retirement age for a variety of reasons. For some, the impetus is economic; they haven’t managed to save enough to be comfortable retiring. Still others simply enjoy their work and the camaraderie of the workplace and don’t want to give that up. Many fear they’ll be bored in retirement so they just keep working.

For small businesses, retaining older workers – with their decades of knowledge and experience – can be a major boon. But how do you make sure you can keep such talent as long as possible?

One of the chief things older workers want is scheduling flexibility. Let valued older workers set their own schedules. If they prefer to come in early and leave early, let them do that. Also, phrased-in retirement programs are increasingly popular as some older workers fear a sudden abrupt end to their careers. With such programs, employers allow older workers approaching retirement to gradually cut back on their hours so they can slowly move from from full-time employment with a full income to full-time retirement with no work income.

Such gradual transitions can be good for both parties. The business owner can learn what gaps will need to be filled once an older workers leaves and can make adjustments during the transition instead of suddenly have to fill a major void left by the usual retirement process. And some workers may decide they’re not yet ready to fully retire and may continue working part-time for a while longer, giving the business the benefit of their knowledge and expertise.

• Internships for older workers are becoming more common. One in four retirees returns to the workforce within two years, according to the Rand Corp., a policy research nonprofit. Many of these workers are seeking to move into a new field and are therefore willing to take an internship if that’s what it takes for them to learn new and necessary skills. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 70% of HR directors say older workers have a stronger work ethic, so corporations are looking for ways to hire older workers, including setting up internship programs for people with some gray in their hair.

If your small business uses interns, you don’t have to only consider college students for these positions. You should be able to find plenty of candidates over age 50 who are looking for a fresh start but who will bring decades of smarts and that strong work ethic with them to your workplace.

• Companies are more willing to rehire workers who left. There’s even a name for this now; employees who leave and then come back are called boomerang workers. While some companies previously had a policy against rehiring people, that trend has shifted in the opposite way, according to this article from the Society of Human Resources Management.  Some experts point out that former employees are familiar with the company and thus cost less to train than new hires.

If a former employee applies for one of your job openings, don’t dismiss the idea out of hand as you might have in the past. Each person will have had different reasons for leaving and different reasons for wanting to come back. Consider each potential re-hire individually instead of having a flat-out “no to all re-hires” policy.

Keep you eye on these and other workforce trends in 2016 to make sure you’re keeping track of what is impacting your most valuable asset, your small business workforce.

 

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