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Strategy

The Skills Gap: How Can Companies Keep Skilled Talent?


by Sharon Emek

Strategic hiring can ensure your company remains competitive in an environment of employment upheaval.

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One could say that 65 is the new 40.

That’s because the workforce in the U.S. is getting older. The reason: many veteran employees are no longer retiring at age 65.

According to data from AICPA, 45 percent of non-retired employees expect to work full time for longer than originally planned. That fact is changing drastically the shape and face of accounting, finance and other professions.

Yet while millennials now make up the largest living generation, the U.S. employee population continues to get older. Even with the workforce aging, many older, skilled workers have continued the mass exodus that began when the first Boomers hit retirement age. While their retirement may be delayed, their eventual exit will create a skills gap – one that is already causing many a C-suite executive much concern.

Closing the Skills Gap

Fortunately, while Boomers may be exiting the traditional office, they are not leaving the workforce.  Instead, many are looking for flexible arrangements.

Why that matters; retiring and retired workers who have amassed decades of industry knowledge and skill, are looking for more non-traditional roles within their industries. Many workers are looking to extend their careers in work-from-home positions, and companies willing to embrace a less traditional business employment model could well reap the benefits of such arrangements.

It’s a model that many companies are wise to adopt now. Recent Nasdaq statistics estimate that 43 percent of the workforce will be freelancing by 2020, and are considered to be the fastest-growing segment of the American workforce. A similar Prudential study found that nearly one-third (31 percent) of independent contractors are Boomers.

Work At Home Vintage Experts (WAHVE) saw evidence of this sea change firsthand when we expanded our business into the accounting industry in November. We received  nearly 2,500 applications from retiring accounting professionals nationwide with 25+ years of knowledge under their belt. Their goal – to continue working in a more support-oriented role while working from home.

Adopting New Models

Embracing such employees can become a rather significant win for corporations facing their own talent gap. In order to stay competitive and maintain a good balance of talent and skill, CFOs, Chief Accounting Officers and other financial executives should be looking at the benefits independent contractors, particularly those with vast experience and knowledge, can bring to the job. By employing older workers in a remote working arrangement, companies can benefit not just from the experience these veteran professionals bring to the job, but also from their networks and connections.

Remote workers also help companies lower overhead. Because they work from home, they’re using their own equipment and supplies, and they don’t require office space or resources. In fact, hiring remote workers via a staffing solution, companies avoid the administrative work associated with hiring, firing, taxes, salary, and time off. Since older workers understand the industry, onboarding is faster, as well.

Working with retiring professionals in a remote situation also means better productivity. A Stanford University and Ctrip joint study shows that remote workers surveyed were more productive by 13 percent than their in-office counterparts. Plus, the study shows that remote workers were working 9.5 percent longer than office-based employees.

For the retiring employee, re-engaging in a remote position is also a significant win. Many workers opt to retire to avoid long commutes or the stresses of their current positions. With flexibility to work when and how they want, many retiring workers are bringing a strong, more focused work ethic to the job. A Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College report indicated that people working past retirement age are more engaged and satisfied with their jobs, which allows them to achieve the work-life balance that can often evade them during their careers.

A Way Forward

The pivot toward offering more flexible work-life balance for employees has already happened. The resulting shift in culture can be beneficial to companies, Boomers, and employees of every age group. Plus, the skills retained when re-engaging older workers can give businesses the productivity and competitive advantage at a time when job openings are plentiful and workers are few.

For corporate leaders to adapt to the changing workforce, they must view talent through a new lens, embracing forward-thinking concepts, such as independent workers. Employing those workers who are nearing retirement, companies can tap into a remote workforce that’s teeming with talent and knowledge.

Sharon Emek is President of WAHVE.