Spokane Journal of Business

Recruiting retirees becomes focus for some employers

Seniors often set terms, while businesses get experienced personnel in lean market

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-Erica Bullock
Tiffany Murphy, owner of Senior Helpers of Spokane, says she has placed job announcements in more places where seniors are likely to see them.

Across the nation, businesses struggling to meet their staffing needs have started enhancing benefits and incentives to attract workers. Some employers facing labor shortages here, however, have incorporated an alternative approach to hiring by targeting retirement-age people to help boost their workforce.

Jennifer Koenig, Spokane-based vice president and branch director at Robert Half International Inc., says it’s common for older adults in their 60s to call the employment and recruiting company expressing interest in finding occasional contract work.

Although the employers she works with haven’t specifically requested to work with older individuals, with the increased tightening of the job market, she’s noticed more have been willing to consider out-of-the-box candidates, such as retirees.

Robert Half is a staffing and recruiting company that offers contract and temporary placements in finance, accounting, and administrative occupations in a number of industries.

Koenig says in those positions, retirement-age people have been a productive population for her to work with.

“What our clients benefit from is that they get this person with years of expertise who isn’t looking to climb the ladder or even make top dollar—just a fair wage to do some projects or help them get through a tough time here and there,” she says.

There is some indication that older people are interested in returning to work as well. According to a survey of 1,100 retired workers aged 54 and older by San Francisco-based Resumebuilder.com, 34% of retirees have considered returning to work to take advantage of job opportunities in the current labor market.

Tiffany Murphy, franchise owner of in-home care company Senior Helpers of Spokane, says attracting retirees to work requires a diverse marketing approach because the health care industry has been facing labor shortages for years. So, she includes outreach to senior centers and churches, where retirees are likely to see the company’s job announcements, in addition to hiring events and online job posting sites.

Murphy says Senior Helpers places job opportunities on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Indeed. She says a recent Facebook ad posted near the end of January showed promising results of reaching its target demographic of older adults. As of Feb. 1, the announcement had gained 114 views and had been shared three times.

At the onset of the pandemic, the health risks toward Murphy’s older staff made an impact on her hiring strategy, and she decided to stop targeting retirees specifically, as they were included in the at-risk demographic. 

With a 20% increase in business during the pandemic and 20 open positions to fill, the time has come to reintroduce targeted announcements as a way to increase the staff at Senior Helpers, she says.

Senior Helpers provides in-home care for seniors with a variety of needs, and the work aligns well with the type of experience older people have, according to Murphy.

Providing daily companionship and assistance with daily activities to clients has been a good role for many older caregivers, Murphy says.

Patience, personality, dependability, and reliability are some of the skills Murphy says she values in her older employees, and the demands of companionship caregiving are well suited to match with an older caregiver.

“They don’t take very heavy clients where you have to do manual transfers or hands-on assist,” she says. “There is maybe some light housekeeping, some meal prep, a lot of companionship, and transport as well. A lot of it is making sure the meds are taken accurately.”

Older employees at Senior Helpers have typically come from previous careers in health care with a desire to continue working on their own terms, Murphy says.

“We’ve had retired nurses, pharmacists, and a pharmaceutical sales rep.,” she says. “We have had quite a few people seek us out.”

Senior Helpers has 80 caregivers and eight office employees in Spokane. Of the total staff here, 29% are over 60.

Murphy says the agency offers flexible scheduling, client matching, and a 4% match on an employee’s 401(k) benefits, which has appealed to older job seekers.

Client matching involves assessing the personalities, skills, needs, and availability of both the caregiver and the client.

“Our retirees that are older and in their 60s have been the most dependable, reliable caregivers, and the seniors love them too. They have more experience, and it’s almost like hanging out with a friend.”

Kristie Holzer, human resources manager at Numerica Credit Union, says the financial institution also has a strategy to recruit retirees.

Numerica offers workplace incentives to appeal to older individuals, such as scheduling flexibility, including part-time and hybrid positions, limited contract work opportunities, skills and development training, and health benefits.

Holzer says Numerica is planning to add 100 employees by the end of the year, which will bring the total number of employees companywide to about 800.

To help meet that goal, Numerica’s talent acquisition team posts job announcements on the company’s online career portal and for certain positions jobs are listed on LinkedIn as well.

Holzer says 5% of external employment offers were made through employee referrals, which she estimates has been the most successful way to reach new older candidates.

“Our employees know the company. They know the positions. So, they’re some of our best recruiters out there,” Holzer claims.

Holzer says working with older people benefits both the company and the employee, which is why the Spokane Valley-based credit union seeks out retirees.

Of  Numerica’s total workforce, 4.2% of all employees are over 60.

Holzer says Numerica finds value in many types of experience that older people typically possess.

“We have individuals apply who have years of experience. They’ve had worldly experience, personal experience, self-reflection, and self-awareness of how that experience can help the company be better,” Holzer says. “My favorite is (hearing) the interpersonal and the behavior that they acquired over their lengthy careers, based on so much diverse experience, and what they bring to the position, the organization, and to the team.”

Numerica had eight open positions companywide as of Jan. 31.

Holzer says, “As an organization that really focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion, all levels, all skill sets, and all backgrounds are really invited to apply and work here.”

Erica Bullock
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Reporter Erica Bullock has worked at the Journal since 2019 and covers real estate and construction. She is a craft beer enthusiast, who loves to garden and go camping with friends.

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