By MATT BLOIS
More workers in Williamson County are staying in the workforce into their 60s and 70s, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The proportion of the population aged 64 to 75 working or looking for work in Williamson County increased by about five percentage points over the last eight years. More than a third of that group was a part of the labor force in 2017.
At the same time, the labor force participation rate for 25 to 64 year olds remained flat and teens were less likely to join the labor force.
According to a report by the Bureau of Labor statistics, the numbers in Williamson County match a nationwide trend. People across the U.S. are working longer. Some want to continue a fulfilling career and others just want to pay the bills.
Sherrie Whatton, the president and CEO of Brentwood based LBMC Staffing Solutions, said she has seen an uptick in the number of workers nearing retirement seeking jobs through LBMC.
“We’ve had an uptick in that demographic. That pre-retirement, post-retirement type of person that says, what I’d love is to have some consulting and contract work versus finding another full time permanent job,” she said. “It’s helpful to them because with their lifestyle if they want to work an assignment for nine months and then they want to take off a month, then they take off a month.”
LBMC works in several industries, but most of its clients are financial or accounting companies.
Whatton said many of the older workers LBMC places are looking for flexibility as they get closer to retirement. Contract or temporary roles usually mean less stress, fewer obligations compared to full time work and a little extra money.
She said those older workers can fill in important gaps for companies. They might work on one project or fill in for an executive on a temporary basis. She said some older workers have filled in temporarily while a full time employee is on extended medical leave.
According to the Pew Research Center, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day. Jessica Stollings, a consultant who works with companies to facilitate intergenerational communication, said at first companies worried that would result in a major brain drain when baby boomers retired.
“The expectation was we’re getting ready for massive knowledge loss,” she said. “Those deep smarts are getting ready to walk out the door. I think when we really started paying attention is when they didn’t.”
Many of those workers are sticking around. That means companies won’t lose the institutional knowledge, but Stollings said it’s still important for companies to come up with a plan for older workers. That might mean moving older workers into mentoring roles so they can pass on their knowledge, or pairing their skills with younger workers.
Stollings said many of the baby boomer she talks with are still working because work gives them a purpose.
“They’re wanting to stay in and have meaning and have value versus retire and got to a golf course or something like that. They’re really wanting to stay plugged in,” she said. “They’re doing a lot of mentoring, a lot of legacy building. Those who do leave have encore careers where they’re entrepreneurs. The main point there is we’re seeing that shift as wanting to be involved and have meaning.”
However, Stollings also acknowledged that the recession knocked back retirement savings for boomers. That means many of them are remaining in jobs to make more money. Whatton also said some workers want the extra income.
With medical improvements that are increasing lifespan, Sotllings and Whatton said companies should be paying attention to older workers because they’re not going away. Stollings said she sees this transition as an important opportunity.
“Look at the collective skills that each generation brings to the workforce,” she said. “I believe we need all of them to be whole, but we have to be thoughtful about how we position it and how we bring it together.”