Grey panthers to combat the shortage of skilled workers – is this the solution?

By Annette Ehrhardt, seniors@work, and Nicole B. Stucki, HR Director Selecta Switzerland

Finding suitable employees, especially experienced specialists, is becoming increasingly difficult. In the discussion about solutions, one potential is often overlooked: working with retired 60-75 year olds and thus making use of the immense wealth of experience of the older generation.

When it comes to the shortage of skilled workers, many people think of software developers, web and IT specialists, AI experts, crypto miners and other very future-oriented professions - and immediately dismiss them. Because these tasks are clearly not the core competence of those over 60. BUT: there are an incredible number of other areas in which the gaps are large since more and more baby boomers are retiring. Not only SMEs, but also large companies are feeling the change in the labor market. According to Nicole B. Stucki, HR Director Selecta Switzerland, the labor market is currently very hot, as a lot of pent-up work is being made up for after the pandemic. "Good conditions for rethinking the labor market!" says the expert.

But can it work? In a society that is driven by a real "youth craze", can we suddenly rely on the elderly? The reality is that it is already difficult to find a new job from the early 50s, if not the late 40s. In fact, there are great reservations about retired specialists, especially in large companies, and working with retirees does not (yet?) fit in with the existing processes and habits in the HR area. The huge group of retirees, i.e. people from 60 to well into their 90s, is also far too often tarred with the same brush. But "retired" does not necessarily mean "old", and for many, 60 is the new 40. Are young retirees automatically frail, old-fashioned and left behind? Nicole B. Stucki: "I hear this accusation very often and do not share it in this form. Good dossiers combine training and professional experience - and that does not work at a young age. It only becomes difficult for older people if their CV does not show a common thread."

If you take a closer look, there are many reasons why companies should dare to work with the “old” companies. Here are the five most important:

  1. Extremely motivated and committed employees

Anyone who wants to be active in the job market at this age really wants to. Because they could also sit back and enjoy retirement. For the vast majority of Swiss people, monthly pension payments are enough to continue to make ends meet. Companies that hire a retiree can therefore be sure of getting real enthusiasm and motivation. Those who have worked in prominent positions in particular cannot and do not want to go from 100 to 0 overnight. A task, the feeling of being needed, and the passion to pass on one's own knowledge and many years of experience are important driving forces.

  1. Flexible, fast availability to meet short-term needs

Although retirees often have many leisure activities, they are not tied down in other employment contracts and are usually spontaneous and quickly available. The vast majority are also not interested in a permanent full-time job. This makes them ideal employees to cover short-term absences due to illness, accident, maternity, holidays or other unforeseen events in the company. Unlike many temporary workers, they are highly qualified and very experienced in their field.

  1. Diversity in the team and a cross-generational approach ensure better results

It is now well known that mixed teams deliver better results than homogeneous groups. This applies not only to gender, origin and education, but also to age. Start-ups are happy to receive coaching and mentoring from former managers, trainees are happy to turn to more experienced older people, and the prudence and life experience of retirees are important soft skills that everyone benefits from. "HR departments have recognized all of this, but unfortunately, too often recruiters still look for the profiles they already have - instead of complementary profiles. And of course, that does not promote diversity in teams," says Nicole B. Stucki.

  1. Pensioners are a perfect fit for “New Work”, “Gig Economy” and Generation Z.

Many young people are looking for alternatives to the typical full-time job. Job sharing, 80% models, sabbaticals, remote work, part-time work, freelance work, less loyalty to the company,... all of this is on the rise and is causing HR departments headaches about how to manage all the activities in the company. The world of work is changing, and retired professionals fit very well into this new world. They are looking for part-time positions, usually 20-80 percent, time-limited projects or hourly jobs. They no longer want to commit themselves long-term and want to enjoy their freedom just like Generation Z. Nicole B. Stucki: "Every generation brings new impulses to the world of work, and that's a good thing. Today, more and more men and women are working part-time, especially while the children are small. A newer phenomenon, driven by the pandemic, is of course a high proportion of home office work. But what is also new is that people want to continue to work from home more because they have acquired a dog or another pet during this time."

  1. Cheaper alternative due to low non-wage labor costs

Last but not least, employing retired employees is also worthwhile for companies. Anyone who has reached the statutory retirement age of 65 or 64 no longer has to pay BVG contributions. This is a significant factor in the total wage bill! Contributions for AHV, EV and IO are also only payable above an annual allowance. Those who employ senior managers of retirement age also benefit from the fact that these employees are less concerned with salary than with other things, so that they often work for lower wages than, for example, people in their mid-fifties who do not yet receive a pension.


The list of advantages could be extended. For example, older employees are also good salespeople or customer service representatives for older customers - because increasing life expectancy means that this affluent clientele is becoming more and more interesting. And the social benefit of companies doing something to combat loneliness in old age (and in some cases poverty in old age) should not be neglected either.

Conclusion: Retired employees are by no means a panacea for the shortage of skilled workers, but they can make an important contribution. Nicole B. Stucki sums it up: "Companies should therefore dare to give them a chance. For example, we are currently working with a retired headhunter and can no longer imagine working without him. Fortunately, the level of motivation and curiosity is still the most important ingredient for a fulfilling professional life, no matter what age."


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