Small Businesses Don’t Have a Choice, Expert Says


Is your small business ready for the graying of the baby boomers?

If not, you’re running out of time to start planning for older workers, labor shortages and major shifts in the way you and your employees do business.

There are lots of useful things to do to get ready and, to be sure, some of them will be difficult and expensive, such as providing better benefits to compete for workers in a tight labor market.

“Businesses will need desperately to attract the fewer younger workers coming along behind the baby boomers,” said Mike Freeman, president of Cardinal Services, Inc., based in Bend.“And they’ll need to hang on to some of these older workers, because you can’t have all that experience suddenly just walk out the door.”

Cardinal Services is a professional employer organization.PEOs, as they’re called, shoulder time-consuming and complicated human-resources chores for small businesses, everything from payroll to providing employee benefits.

The 77 million baby boomers – a quarter of the U.S. population – will reach the traditional retirement age in five years. People over 45 years of age are now 40 percent of the workforce. As they retire, they’ll leave gaping holes in the labor force.

On the other hand, many of these boomers can’t – or aren’t ready – to retire.

A fifth of the small businesses surveyed recently by the industry’s trade association, the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations, said their older workers are staying on past age 65. More than a third of these particular PEO customers said at least some of their employees are still working because they can’t afford to retire.

Older employees, obviously, will require more health care than younger workers. But they’ll also provide more experience and continuity. And they’ll want – and be able to demand – creative new ways to work, like flex time and part-time work.

The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing in February on a bill that addresses some of these issues, the “The Older Worker Opportunity Act.” The bill would provide a tax credit to employers who offer flexible or part-time work for older workers while protecting them from loss of pension or health benefits. That lets these workers “gradually transition into retirement instead of entering full retirement abruptly.”

“There’s no way to dodge the changes coming to the work force, and small businesses need to stay abreast of developments like the Senate bill,” said Freeman. “And they have to cope with all these vast changes with fewer resources than big companies.”

That’s one place PEOs can help – it’s their business to stay abreast of big changes like these for small businesses and help them offer the kind of benefits that will attract and keep employees.

Information: Troy Neimann at 541/389-4259 ext 2404.


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