With an aging workforce and a group of young, hungry employees ready to fill their shoes, what’s an employer to do?

Depending on who you ask, you may get a different answer. Some businesses, like RSM Richter, one of Canada’s largest independent accounting and business advisory firms, are trying to recruit younger workers by reassuring them age is not a barrier to career progression.

“People want to work in a place where they can establish themselves,” says Robert Kofman, 42, co-managing partner of RSM Richter in Toronto. “If you don’t promote good people, they move on.”

A recent Angus Reid survey conducted by RSM Richter indicated that 70 per cent of 18-to-25- year-old Canadians are concerned about losing leadership opportunities to older workers delaying retirement.

For Kofman, who has climbed the ranks relatively rapidly, it’s important to retain young talent by promoting them accordingly. Combining their ambition with the experience of older employees has helped grow the business.

He says there is room for everybody, and that the company has done a great job at identifying its high achievers early.

“It’s not a scenario where you turn 55 and you’re out,” he says. “People are still contributing.”

A recent survey by the Pew Research Group predicted that 25 per cent of American workers will be 55 or older by 2016, up from nearly 19 per cent today.

An older work force is going to be a fact of corporate life, and in order to retain important intellectual capital and avoid age-discrimination lawsuits, companies need to figure out how to change office life to accommodate silver-haired employees, said Lance Perry, a senior risk engineer for insurance company Zurich Financial Services in Fort Worth, Texas.

Perry has been analyzing the science of beneficial workplace design for more than 25 years and recently helped write a report on how to best accommodate and retain aging employees.

One of the areas the report explored was the importance of passing on corporate knowledge from one generation to the next.

It’s mentorship programs like this that help the vision and ideas of young leaders become real, workable policies: A component quite valuable to the success at RSM Richter.

Kofman says the older workers can use their experience to work with younger ones to implement successful initiatives.

“It’s helpful to have vision (from the younger workers), he says, “and experience (from older workers) brings in reality.”
with files from the associated press

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