April 2024 TogetHR Times

Exploring Benefits That Encourage Retention of Older Workforce

February 8, 2024 | Lin Grensing-Pophal

As labor shortages persist in certain industries and job roles, there is a notable shift occurring in how companies perceive and appreciate older workers. Businesses are now acknowledging that their Baby Boomer demographic possess valuable skills and expertise that should be nurtured.

Kraig Kleeman, CEO and founder of The New Workforce, a global outsourcing company based in Chicago, noted that employers are “finally seeing the light.” He emphasized the immense value of older employees, particularly Baby Boomers. As companies face the need to fill the job positions and a wealth of wisdom to tap into, they are adapting creative strategies to retain them in the workforce. 

With the talent potential of this demographic gaining greater recognition, employers are finding ways to enhance and introduce benefits that appeal to older workers.

John Cascone, senior vice president of Flex HR, highlighted the significance of hiring and retaining older employers in light of the recent workforce deployment trends. He also added the necessity for organizations to understand what they value and to align their benefits with those values to foster retention effectively.

“Several factors to consider in retaining valued older workers are support from corporate leadership, flexibility in work scheduling, and continuing health and retirement benefits,” he said.

What new approaches are organizations adopting as they create benefits plans to attract and retain a Baby Boomer workforce? Some employers are implementing the following strategies:

Emphasizing the Importance of Established, Traditional Benefits

Older employees, being closer to or past the traditional retirement age, are at a higher risk of leaving their jobs. From this perspective, there are several strategies that companies can employ to enhance their benefits and appeal to this demographic. 

Charlie Clark, the director of total rewards at Customer.io, a fully remote messaging platform with a global presence based in Portland, Oregon,said that the company’s focus is on identifying and communicating about the benefits that older employees find valuable.

These benefits include:

  • Complete coverage for health, dental, and vision needs paid in full for employees and their families.
  • Matching contributions to 401(k) and Roth IRA retirement savings plans.
  • Company-provided life and disability insurance, with opportunities to increase coverage at discounted rates.
  • Contributions to health savings accounts for eligible employees.
  • Access to legal advisory services.
  • Coverage plans for accidents and critical illnesses.

Many companies provide these benefits, not just for older employees. Nevertheless, experts suggest that companies may not be effectively reminding employees, particularly the older ones, of the value these benefits offer.

Research conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute indicates that retirement and health benefits are the top priorities for workers aged 50 to 64. Interestingly, despite employees eligible for Medicare and over the age of 64, still have health and wellness requirements that employers can fulfill through their benefits offerings.

Providing Flexibility in Work Arrangements

Many older workers prioritize flexibility and consider it a key factor in their wish lists for ways their employers could retain them in the workforce. 

“Many older workers are seeking a balanced work-life approach,” Kleeman stated. “Think of working from home, part-time gigs or flexible hours.”

Mark Stratton Berry, SHRM-CP, a senior human resources specialist at Insperity, a national HR provider based in Kingwood, Texas, concurred. He stated, “Employers are acknowledging that Baby Boomers highly value remote work opportunities, just like younger generations, and are therefore continuing to provide remote work options.”

He referenced a 2023 McKinsey & Company report, which revealed that Baby Boomers aged 55-64 ranked workplace flexibility as the third-most significant factor influencing their decision to change jobs. “Baby Boomers with children or grandchildren can utilize remote work to participate in family trips to other states or fulfill their desires for extended travel,” he noted.

Berry emphasized that older workers value schedules for similar reasons. “Flexible schedules allow employees to adjust their work hours earlier or later to accommodate personal commitments,” he elaborated. That, he explained, “flexibility is particularly beneficial for fulfilling family obligations like school drop-offs and pick-ups or scheduling medical appointments.”

Additionally, Berry also highlighted a new form of flexibility that organizations are implementing: grandparent leave. This involves offering paid leave to grandparents upon the birth or adoption of a grandchild by their children. This emerging trend, sometimes termed “grandternity” leave, is described by The Wall Street Journal as a “new way to retain older workers.”

Prioritizing Health and Wellness

One significant reason for retaining older employees in the workplace is the positive impact that working has on health. Harvard Health Publishing, for instance, has noted that benefits like mental stimulation and social interaction help in preventing chronic diseases.

Promoting healthy aging, especially by employers, is highly valued. As reported in the Harvard Business Review, employers can significantly contribute to fostering a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce by encouraging employees to prioritize their physical and mental well-being through preventive measures, recommended screenings, and seeking timely care when needed.

Furthermore, some employers are creatively addressing the specific health and wellness needs of aging employees. As an example, the introduction of menopause benefits are emerging as a small yet growing trend in the workplace.

As reported by SHRM Online in November, although only about 4 percent of companies offering sick leave and are currently providing additional leave benefits for menopause, there is increasing interest of about 32 percent of employer respondents to an NFP survey indicating that they would consider offering such benefits within the next five years. Moreover, a Bank of America report found that 54 percent of American women aged 40-65 express interest in welcoming these menopause-related benefits.

Encouraging Financial Wellness

Promoting financial stability is another aspect of overall well-being, values particularly by older workers given by their nearing retirement. Therefore, experts suggest that employers can develop, communicate, and customize these benefits for their older workforce.

Michelle Bonam, Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness at Ceridian, a Minneapolis-based HR software and services firm, pointed out that as Baby Boomers and Gen Xers near the end of their careers, there will be a heightened focus from both employees and employers on financial wellness and retirement preparedness. 

Given the challenges posed by rising interest rates, inflation, and uncertain economic outlook, many older employees are uncertain about their retirement plans. Bonam anticipates that in 2024, “financial wellness will be front and center as employers take a more proactive approach in ensuring their employees are financially prepared to retire.” She recommended implementing educational programs and offering incentives to support employees in strengthening their financial planning.

Providing Opportunities for Employment After Retirement

Somen Mondal, General Manager of Talent Intelligence at Ceridian, stated that work itself is considered a valuable benefit, even if it may not seem immediately apparent. He anticipates that in 2024, organizations will broaden their workforce beyond traditional employment models to harness talent from diverse sources, including former employees.

Mondal explains, “To rapidly adapt to volatile market conditions, more employers will embrace a blended workforce strategy, integrating not only contingent workers but also a network of former workers previously left the organization, to address needs.” Additionally, he emphasizes that artificial intelligence will play a pivotal role in this transition, acting as the ultimate facilitator in matching skills, open shifts, and available talent.

Investing in Employee Learning and Development

Finally, when devising benefits strategies for older workers, it is important not to underestimate their interest in learning and development opportunities, as emphasized by industry experts.

“Baby Boomers are keen to acquire new skills,” stated by Berry. He referenced an AARP survey that indicated over 90 percent (90%) of older workers are interested in enhancing their professional skills with the support of their employer.

Kleeman also noted the value of mentoring opportunities, as this can be mutually beneficial for both younger and older workers. “It is an excellent opportunity for knowledge exchange,” he remarked.

In a world where individuals are working well beyond the traditional retirement age, yet companies continue to face challenges in attracting and retaining skilled workers, older employees may emerge as an untapped available talent pool. Furthermore, benefits can play a pivotal role in attracting and retaining older workers. 

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a freelance writer in Chippewa Falls, Wis.

Managing the Next Generation

Gen Z Employees and Their Evolving Expectations in the Workplace

February 9, 2024 | Dana M. Wilkie

Generation Z, characterized by their one-click efficiency, idealism, social media fluency, and eco-consciousness, is entering the workforce, catching many employers off guard.

A survey conducted by ResumeBuilder.com in April 2023 found that three-quarters of managers perceive their ‘Zoomer’ employees as more difficult to work with than the older generations. Similarly, a study by Intelligent.com in July 2023 revealed that 40 percent of business executives feel that the recent college graduates are ill-prepared for the workforce, possibly due to their prolonged isolation during the pandemic.

Recognizing deficiencies in soft skills among Gen Z workers,  major consulting firms like PwC, Deloitte, and KPMG are providing specialized training to help them improve communication skills, active listening, and the ability to interpret nonverbal cues.

Tara Ceranic Salinas, Ph.D., Chair of Management at the University of San Diego’s Knauss School of Business, and the North American Editor of the Journal of Business Ethics Education, remarks, “Every generation has faced criticism for something.” She also attributes that some challenges faced by Gen Z may stem from being over-supervised by their parents, who aim to give their kids a different childhood experience than their own and thus potentially resulting in a lack of independence. 

Embracing a Fresh Workplace Culture

By 2030, Gen Z, spanning from the mid-to-late 1990s to the early 2010s, will constitute 8.3 percent of the U.S. workforce, as projected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to findings from a recent Glassdoor report, the count of Gen Z individuals in the workforce is set to surpass that of Baby Boomers this year. Moreover, globally, Gen Z is expected to compromise 27 percent of the workforce in leading Western countries and reach one-third of the global population by 2025.

The characteristics of Gen Z are widely acknowledged by the influence of online culture and the lasting effects of the pandemic, distinguishing them from other generations in today’s workforce. As stated by the Adobe’s 2023 Future Workforce Study, which surveyed more than 1,000 Gen Z workers, this new generation in America’s labor market is ‘poised to reshape the post-pandemic workforce’. This study identified several key observations about Gen Z:

  • They prioritize meaningful work and aspire to be agents of change in the workplace, as they are not shy about speaking up for that change, advocating for their beliefs and expecting their employers to do the same. A significant majority (56 percent) express a preference for working for a company that actively addresses social issues.
  • Gen Z workers readily express their opinions on workplace opportunities, irrespective of their seniority level. A notable 74 percent feel comfortable providing upward feedback to managers or supervisors.
  • They value workplaces and managers that encourage them to be their true selves. The study noted that survey participants prioritize aspects of company culture such as work-life balance, connection with colleagues, and equitable treatment.
  • Inclusivity is a top priority for Gen Z, with more than half (52 percent) citing difficulty in getting along with managers or co-workers as the primary reason for leaving a job.

However, this generation is often criticized for communicating unprofessionally, displaying overly casual attire and behavior, challenges in maintaining boundaries between their professional and personal lives, and being excessively critical of their employers.

“Gen Z desires balance,” Salinas explains. “They are reluctant to devote their entire lives to an organization that may let them go, so traditional corporate roles hold little appeal. Some dub them the ‘Hustle Generation’ as many prefer self-employment over working for a company. They have been raised understanding the importance of mental and physical health, so a sedentary desk job within a culture that does not prioritize well-being is unattractive to them.

In a 2023 survey of 2,000 graduates aged 18 to 24 in the United Kingdom and the U.S. 85 percent emphasized the significance of social skills such as influencing, persuading, and inclusivity for career advancement. However, 40 percent reported receiving no training, onboarding, or support from their managers to develop these skills. “This disconnect perpetuates the graduate skill gap, with significant repercussions,” explains Michelle P. King, Ph.D., who led the survey.

Techniques for Handling Ambiguity

King, a renowned author, researcher, and founder of The Culture Practice, a global consultancy and coaching firm, Gen Z typically struggles with ambiguity. Raised in an era where Google provides instant answers, this generation is accustomed to quick, decisive solutions to their queries, they may find themselves uncomfortable when confronted with ambiguous tasks assigned by their managers. Without the experience of making decisions based on limited information or trial and error, this generation may be less confident in their abilities. 

Certainly, more than ⅓ (33 percent) of the Gen Z respondents to King’s survey admit to feeling unsure about making decisions at work without all the necessary information. Consequently, this can hinder their problem-solving abilities, especially with no clear-cut solutions, tackling complex tasks, and engaging in spontaneous brainstorming sessions for innovative solutions.

King emphasizes that adapting to ambiguity for the first time poses significant challenges. “The new world of work is a ‘hyper-social workplace’ because it requires one crucial skill: The ability to manage how you work with others,” she notes. She also added that “there is an ambiguity paradox facing younger generations as workplaces become more informal in terms of structure, processes, bureaucracy and how people collaborate. Yet, at the same time younger generations’ ability to navigate both tasks and social ambiguity is declining.”

Managing social ambiguity involves interpreting others’ emotions and intentions to manage informal interactions. Interestingly, according to her survey, 30 percent of the respondents report increased stress due to unclear relationships at work. Surprisingly, 9 in 10 individuals avoid in-person events due to social anxiety, nearly a quarter feel uneasy speaking up in team meetings. King attributes this phenomenon partly to the prolonged isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As King says, “leaders are making snap judgments about what they think is happening, rather than taking the time to understand why younger generations may be less engaged or struggle with how work gets done.” She highlights that while existing research focuses on the gap between graduates’ interpersonal and technological skills and employers’ needs, the specific challenges facing graduates and the potential solutions for bridging this gap remain less explored. 

Supportive Leadership

Managers play a crucial role in coaching younger generations of workers by demonstrating adaptability in fluid work environments and adjusting their communication methods to connect with colleagues across age groups.

Three-quarters of the Gen Z respondents to King’s survey indicate that their relationships with their managers cause them stress. Engaging in difficult conversations with supervisors is particularly challenging for this generation, with over 36 percent admitting discomfort in these conversations with colleagues. The survey suggests that managers can help by coaching younger employees to embrace uncertainty and adapt to ongoing change. 

Salinas emphasizes that ridiculing an entire generation for their challenges, a common occurrence in the media, is counterproductive. She argues that the skills lacking in younger workers can be addressed through education and training, likening it to executives learning to use AI are seen as beneficial for business. This research shows that Gen Z individuals are enthusiastic learners, and organizations that invest to develop their skills will gain a competitive advantage.

Indeed, approximately 83 percent of Gen Z respondents to Adobe’s 2023 Future Workforce Study indicates the importance of having a workforce mentor is crucial for their career growth. However, only approximately half of them (52 percent) reported having such guidance.

.“A manager is really a teacher,” highlights King. “When managers fail to provide clarity on aspects like working hours, deadlines, performance evaluations, or expectations, it can become a significant stressor.” Salinas agrees with this sentiment, emphasizing that investing time in Gen Z’s development at work can yield substantial returns, as the knowledge they bring to companies regarding the potential of social media and artificial intelligence.

Salinas further notes that, “Companies are overlooking an awesome opportunity if they don’t leverage the skills that this generation possesses.”

Dana M. Wilkie is a freelance journalist living in Panama. 

Job Descriptions – How to develop and use them!  How effective and accurate are your current job descriptions?  Do they need to be reviewed and updated?

by Christine Muller

 A job description is a useful, plain-language tool that explains the tasks, duties, function, and responsibilities of a position. It details who performs a specific type of work, how that work is to be completed, and the frequency and the purpose of the work as it relates to the organization’s mission and goals. Job descriptions are used for a variety of reasons, such as determining salary levels, conducting performance reviews, clarifying missions, establishing titles and pay grades, and creating reasonable accommodation controls, and as a tool for recruiting. Job descriptions are useful in career planning, offering training exercises and establishing legal requirements for compliance purposes. A job description gives an employee a clear and concise resource to be used as a guide for job performance. Likewise, a supervisor can use a job description as a measuring tool to ensure that the employee is meeting job expectations.

How to Develop a Job Description:

Step 1: Perform a Job Analysis – gather and examine data about the job’s tasks.  Interview employees to find out exactly what tasks are being performed. Observe how tasks are performed.  

Step 2: Establish the Essential Functions-ensure tasks and responsibilities are truly necessary or a requirement to perform the job.  

Step 3:  Keep relevant and applicable laws in mind as you develop the job description (FLSA, ADA, FMLA for example).

Step 4:  Organize data concisely – structure of the job.  Reach out to your HR Consultant as to what should be included in the job description!

Step 5:  Include disclaimer statement-a job description will never be a comprehensive list of activities or responsibilities – as these could change!  

Step 6:  Signatures-important to validate the job description.   Shows the job description has been reviewed and employee understand the requirements, essential functions, and duties of the position.  Should include employee and supervisor signatures.

Job descriptions are a guiding light during performance evaluations!  They are a cornerstone of both performance evaluations and any improvement plans.  A detailed and clearly communicated job description can help eliminate any surprises for an employee at evaluation time or during disciplinary meetings.  Always keep it handy and refer to it during discussions with your employees.

Contact your HR Consultant to schedule time to review and update your job descriptions, we can even provide you with a checklist to evaluate the accuracy and effectiveness of your current job descriptions!


SHRM SHRM.org/topics-tools

Fisher Phillips https://www.fisherphillips.com/en/news-insights/fp-weekly-checklist-job-descriptions-2024.html

Explaining the Form W-4 to Employees

by Rhonda Anderson

Every tax season payroll professionals know to expect questions from their employees regarding their Federal Income Tax withheld and how to fill out their Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate.  The 2020 Form W-4 is very different due to federal tax law changes that took place in 2018. Employees who have completed the Form W-4 in any year prior to 2020 are not required to submit the new form. Payroll processors must balance the desire to be helpful to employees with the understanding that they need to be care not to give tax or legal advice.

The American Payroll Association has provided the sample letter below, explaining the 2020 Form W-4 to employees. This sample letter can be customized for your organization.

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