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May 21, 2021

An aging workforce: good or bad?

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Came across an interesting piece on the goods-delivering Financial Post blog the other day about an issue we haven’t got a chance to touch on yet in this space.

The paper addresses whether an aging workforce is a gift or curse as the Baby Boomers grow gray and make their way into retirement, if the hallowed ground hasn’t called for them already.

In supporting its stance that older employees are a good thing, the article argues that young people entering the workforce today are “under-equipped professionally” while older workers – though they may be an HR nightmare – are an asset in themselves to serve as mentors for a new batch of company staff.

And, that’s right to a point. Only, where exactly are these new groups of hirees coming from?

Any unionized industry generally deals with lay-offs – and there have been many – in one sweeping manner. Seniority rules and, save for rare exceptions, young workers will be the first to get canned. Performance be damned.

It’s easy to make an argument this is for the best. There’s no substitute for experience, and getting the job done right means, well, getting the job done right. But if a company could have its way (without union interference), which way would it honestly lean if it had to trim some staff?

There are two camps when it comes to aging workers. One of those feels that employees entering their 20th, 25th, 30th year with an employer will remain staunchly loyal, bringing an unparalleled and irreplaceable level of savvy and professionalism to the company.

Or, as the other philosophy states, they’re dead weight. For whatever reason, complacency has kicked in for aging workers and they've resigned themselves to finish out their careers with average commitment and average performance. Just enough to get by. Call it the Matthew McConaughey Way.

Of course, these are pretty radicalized stereotypes. There are just as many aging workers that are still the models of excellence within their companies, just as there are young up-and-comers that are actually well-equipped to carry out business.

But the question remains: from a competitive measure, is an aging workforce a good or a bad thing?



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...