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Companies Turning to Retirees, Teenagers to Fill Jobs

  • Recent data shows that employers have been finding success filling open positions with teenagers and retirees
  • Both groups are finding advantages such as higher wages and a broader range of available positions
  • Tips for hiring either an older or a younger worker

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

Businesses encountering troubles in filling open positions are finding candidates from two very different sources: retirees who are being lured back into the labor force and teenagers interested in finding a job.

The COVID-19 pandemic drove millions of Americans to retire early, but recent data shows that the number of “unretirees” has increased in recent months. There has also been a bump in teen employment this fall, following a similar increase observed earlier this year.

This trend suggests that employers are increasingly discovering that both younger and older applicants can help them address ongoing labor challenges. Many businesses have said they are struggling to find qualified applicants, with several sectors experiencing an increased number of workers quitting as well.

Returning retirees

The pandemic and its associated economic impact drove many people to retire early. The jobs site Indeed determined that 2.5 million people retired during the pandemic, including 1.5 million who stopped working earlier than anticipated. Other research suggests that there were 3 million more retirements than usual due to the pandemic, with the number of retirees who were 55 or older increasing by 3.5 million in the past two years – above the normal rate of about 1 million per year.

Unlike the Great Recession, the markets rebounded quickly during the COVID-19 pandemic and had a much less significant effect on retirement savings. However, many people who retired early may not have been fully prepared to do so due to debts, insufficient savings, or other factors.

Aside from economic need, several other factors can influence a retiree’s decision to return to the workforce. These include easing worries about COVID-19 due to available vaccines, higher pay offered by employers, and a broader range of job opportunities. Even before the pandemic, about 40 percent of workers over the age of 65 had retired at least once before and returned to work as a way of supplementing their income or simply seeking purpose.

Research from Indeed determined that 2.5 percent of retirees returned to work in October.

Retirees can offer advantages such as a strong work ethic, a broader background in experience, and good skills in interacting with co-workers or customers. They can also be a cost-effective hire if they are only looking for a modest salary or part-time work.

Teen employees

Teenagers already benefited from the strong demand for labor earlier this year, when young people looking for a summer job found businesses offering higher wages and other perks. While older and more experienced workers were more prone to snub certain positions or seek higher pay or benefits during the economic recovery, teens were often more willing to snap up available jobs, less likely to seek benefits such as health insurance, and less prone to challenges such as child care responsibilities that prevented some workers from returning to the labor force.

Recent data suggests that companies have continued to rely on teenagers even after schools have resumed, with these workers taking on employment as a weekend or after-school endeavor. Some firms have even partnered with schools to offer training programs to student, combat misconceptions about certain professions, and outline career possibilities.

The payroll services provider Gusto says the hiring of teens in September and October has proceeded at twice the pre-pandemic rate. It also found that people between the ages of 15 and 19 are making up a larger share of the overall workforce, including 13 percent of retail workers – more than twice the pre-pandemic share.

At the same time, teenage participation rate in the labor force has dwindled considerably over the years. While nearly 60 percent of teenagers held a job in 1979, the peak of teenage employment, only a little more than one-third of teenagers are working today.

Hiring retirees

A first step you should take in recruiting retirees for open positions is to determine if your company is unconsciously discriminating based on age. While issues such as physical capabilities will be relevant for some positions, employers may inadvertently shun older applicants due to stereotypes, such as thinking that these workers will be more prone to absenteeism and unable or unwilling to learn about new technologies.

Have a conversation to clearly outline your expectations and address issues such as how much you’ll be paying, whether the hire will be working full-time or part-time, and how flexible you can be in your scheduling. You should also be aware of any unique needs the hire has, such as training needs or regular medical appointments.

When hiring an older worker, you should expect that they might transition back to retirement in the near future. Have a plan in place to facilitate this transition and address how you’ll replace the worker or cover their tasks after their departure.

Hiring teens

If you’re looking to hire teenagers for your business, make sure to advertise open positions on certain apps, social media channels, or other avenues frequented by young adults. As with hiring retirees, an initial conversation can help you to openly communicate your expectations as well as information about your business, while also getting a sense of the applicant’s work ethic, skills, or other qualities.

Teenagers will be balancing their work with their studies, and may have other commitments such as sports teams or clubs. Make sure you’re aware of these commitments and try to accommodate them, especially for major milestones like prom or graduation.

Try to foster long-term relationships with young hires. This can help them to develop career and financial skills, but also ensure that they’ll be interested in retaining the job for several years.

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