Get Ready For a Workforce of 100 Year Olds

Suppose you lived to 100. Would you still expect to retire at 65?

In the US, a 65-year-old woman can expect to live to 86.5 and a third of all 65-year-olds will live into their 90s. And the US is far from the leader in life expectancy worldwide.

Human resources, says Jessica Larsen, must start taking into account the reality that people are living longer and that for reasons as practical as finances or simply to keep active and contributing, they want to continue working.

“With careers being longer, but length of time in roles gett.ng shorter, we need to get much more creative and open minded in HR,” Larsen says, speaking to a DisruptHR audience in London last year. The director of HR, EMEA at the talent mobility and relocation firm BGRS, Larsen outlined the changes longer lives and longer careers will bring — and are already bringing to the workplace. “We’re going to see more flexibility and career options,” she predicts. With skills staying current only for a matter of years, workforce education and training will become significant priorities.

But overcoming the bias against older workers may be HR’s biggest challenge, she says. “Age is the most normalized practice of discrimination,” Larsen says, describing some of the stereotypes employers and, yes, HR professionals hold: “That they are less willing or able to work… They want more money with their wealth of experience, or they’re not able to cope with younger leadership, or a faster moving or a dynamic or higher change culture.”

As the working population gets older and people look for fulfilling work beyond the historic retirement age, the stereotypes will have to give way. Larsen ends her 5 minutes listing what HR can do now to start looking past the stereotypes and preparing the workplace to treat older workers as workers.

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Besides all the data she cites to encourage HR to act, there’s one personally compelling reason: “We are all going to get old.”

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