What is “The Silver Tsunami”?
“The Silver Tsunami” is a term used to describe the graying of the American workforce. As the phrase suggests, the overall population of American seniors is growing at an unprecedented rate. According to the U.S. National Institute on Aging, almost one out of every five Americans will be 65 years or older by the year 2030. People are also working later in life. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 25 percent of our country’s workers will be aged 55 and older by the year 2020. This trend is expected to continue well into the future. By 2050, America’s senior population is expected to grow from 48 million to 88 million.
Though it does accurately depict the swiftness of the changing demographics, the phrase Silver Tsunami is controversial because it suggests that the growing number of older workers will lead to catastrophe. Even if they do not fear this change, many employers have concerns about the implications of this shift. Everywhere you look you find articles expressing worries about our aging workforce. However, we believe that there are many potential benefits to employers who look past the hype (or the hysteria) of the Silver Tsunami to see its opportunities.
We see the growing number of seniors in our workforce as a highly experienced, and often underutilized, pool of talent. I think this trend presents a fantastic opportunity for employers to grow their companies, put out higher quality work, and minimize their long-term risk by hiring seasoned industry veterans.
Potential Benefits of Hiring Seniors
There are seasoned professionals who are looking for opportunities right now, who are proven leaders with experience at great companies. These workers are open to new challenges and may be eager to immerse themselves in a new company culture. These workers have a lot to offer.
Here are a few of the potential benefits of hiring workers who come from Silver Tsunami generations:
- We have seen many senior workers who bring an unparalleled work ethic to their jobs. They are often willing and able to work longer hours.
- Rates of absenteeism may be lower among empty-nesters than parents of young children.
- Older workers are often driven to share their hard earned knowledge by mentoring younger professionals.
- Senior workers often have the aptitude and experience to do more than one type of job well, so you can fit them in where they are needed most, if a change should occur.
- Industry veterans may bring extensive networks of established contacts with them.
- If a company just received a huge amount of capital and must put the right management team into place, seasoned people will help you hit the ground running.
- If you are looking to the future and seeing the possibility of a slowdown or the possibility of having to downsize, it can be a smart move to hire highly experienced candidates who are nearing retirement age. Economic data has already suggested a slowdown will begin within the next four to six years. Hiring someone who is looking to retire in the next four to six years is a preemptive move that can prevent the need for layoffs.
Rise with the Tide
These are only a few of the reasons why employers should not fear the graying of the workforce. At the very least, employers should accept the inevitable reality of this trend and make adjustments accordingly. Though it was once the case that new workers could be expected to stay with their employers for 25 years years or more, a company can no longer rely on strategy with any certainty. The tenure of an American employee is now typically between three and five years (see the 2016 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics here). Instead of worrying, smart employers are being proactive about how to adjust to demographic changes and strategizing ways to best utilize the skills and talents of senior workers.