Solving the Aging Workforce Dilemma

By re-engaging and re-employing the retiring professionals, the insurance industry can retain both knowledge and talent.

By Sharon Emek

It’s a tough time to be looking for talent in the insurance industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are roughly 693,000 insurance professionals who are 55 or older, a 74% increase in the age group within the last 10 years. By next year, nearly one-fourth of all insurance professionals will be within a decade of retirement.

With their departure comes the inevitable loss of skills and knowledge. In fact, the aging workforce is an industry-agnostic problem that many companies are facing as the Boomer generation looks toward retirement. Yet while many companies are making it a primary goal to attract young talent, few recognize a missing piece of the overall solution – keeping the aging workforce engaged and contributing.

It’s an oversight that could cost insurers and agencies plenty in terms of training and lost opportunities. That doesn’t have to be. Many more workers aged 55 and over are working successfully – and happily – beyond the traditional retirement age.

The Boomer generation has plenty more to contribute. Yet conventional employment may not fit with their changing lifestyles. While many older workers could continue beyond retirement age, there are many reasons why they don’t – family obligations, better work-life balance, or the wish to slow down or lose an undesirable commute.

Yet that doesn’t mean older workers want to stop working altogether. Many need to supplement their income going into their retirement, or they simply want to remain active and engaged in the industry, but not full time.

Embracing New Methods

These are all changes that companies can easily address by embracing a new way of engaging the older workforce. Today’s companies can help older workers remain actively engaged while ensuring that critical knowledge and skills remain within the company. One way to do so is to consider adopting remote business methods that address the needs of the aging workforce. The benefits to both worker and company are multiple.

Quality of Life

Retiring and retired professionals may be looking to relocate, be closer to family, find more work-life balance, or re-engage their skills in a less stressful, more hands-on role. A more portable career could address those needs. Benefit to company: reduced office overhead, reduced onsite risks, retention (or acquisition) of veteran talent.

Supplemental Earnings

Many retiring professionals want or need additional income during retirement, yet often don’t require the same salary levels. Earning supplemental income can help them delay drawing on retirement benefits or help them care for aging parents or a family member. Benefit to company: expert-level skills at a significantly reduced wage.

A Home-based Career

Losing the commute or feeling more in control of one’s work-life balance is a common goal for many retiring workers, yet few companies offer step-down or half-time remote working options. A home-based worker can actively contribute while finding time to enjoy a more balanced lifestyle. Benefit to company: An unlimited talent pool that doesn’t rely on physical location.

A New Career Focus

Many retiring workers we see are looking to transition their skills from one focus area to another. A claims adjuster may want to work in loss control, or a marketing professional may want to transition into a sales assistant role. By downsizing the career within the industry, professionals can continue to play an important role while experiencing a new area of concentration. Benefit to company: specialized talent that can augment and share knowledge with the current workforce.

The Desire to Contribute

So many retirement-age professionals simply want to continue contributing to the industry. They want the challenge that the work gives them, and they want to feel that sense of accomplishment without the need to be physically located in the office. Benefit to company: motivated workers who have made an active, conscious decision to seek opportunity and engagement within the industry.

The Remote Solution

As the industry faces an impending brain drain and exodus of expert talent, companies should be considering alternatives beyond simply hiring young professionals to fill the vacancies. Adopting a remote solution to help the retirement-age workforce step down into a more support-oriented role, companies can keep top talent contributing as the younger workforce learns the ropes. The retiring talent that has helped grow the industry isn’t ready to walk away. Smart companies recognize that and will work to keep that knowledge from walking out the door.

About the author 

Sharon Emek, Ph.D., CIC, is founder and CEO of Work At Home Vintage Experts (WAHVE).  WAHVE is a unique contract staffing talent solution that brings companies and pretiring professionals together across the country to meet their work needs, full-time or part-time. WAHVE’s areas of specialty are insurance and accounting. Companies get the right matched talent and vintage experts get to extend their careers working from home.