For the first time in US history, older adults are projected to outnumber children. People are living longer, families are having children later, and on top of that, the birth-rate is at a 30-year low.
While the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been for decades, the upcoming ones will be marked by abundant unfilled posts due to the widening skill gap in the labor market from retiring Baby Boomers. Elder care, however, is also causing highly experienced women to have to resort to leaving the workforce at an alarming rate. When HBS published their Caring Company report earlier this year, they discovered a whopping 73% of employees had an active caregiving responsibility. On average, many of them spend more than 20 hours a week providing this care.
Employers frequently include child care benefits at the top of their priority lists. They have been quick to adopt accommodations for child care-related absenteeism and frequently provide care subsidies. In fact, more than half of employers offer dependent care assistance plans for their employees’ children.
Yet, the proportion of employers who have pledged to supporting their employees balancing work while caring for an elderly family members is far fewer. Only less than a quarter provide caregiver assistance to support employees with aging loved ones.
So why the discrepancy? Well, it could very much come down to ageism.
Last week, I saw Chip Conley, author of Wisdom @ Work: The Making of a Modern Elder, speak at the NYC SHRM Conference. Chip contended older employees bring the knowledge and interpersonal skills critical to organizations, and that employers should be aware this is the first time in history there are FIVE working generations from the Baby Boomers to Gen Z.
Chip affirms multi-generational workplaces are most successful because they marry the essential elements of digital intelligence from younger workers with the emotional intelligence of more experienced ones. But his findings indicated the conditions at our most progressive corporations are often ill-suited to accommodate these knowledgeable employees, often leading to toxic ageism prevalent in many workplaces.
His talk was preceded by Johnny Taylor, Jr., the CEO of SHRM. Johnny suggested agility and adaptability are the most essential attributes of modern employees. He then said the aging workforce is one of the most important topics of our time because there is a “Silver Tsunami,” which results in our need to also understand how to accommodate the aging (yet very productive) labor pool.
It’s evident from these trends what has traditionally worked well for employers in attracting the best talent will not continue to. In the posts to follow, I will provide a tangible framework for you to develop a strategy that is inclusive of all the needs of your diverse workforce and employee-caregivers — not just those caring for young children.