Feature News

How Older Workers Can Help Fill Talent Gaps In Atlantic Canada

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HALIFAX – It’s not unusual to see an older professional fill a job for a few months at the Halifax Partnership, an economic development agency that’s funded by the government and the private sector.

That’s because the organization isn’t hesitant to hire Baby Boomers with the right skills on a per-project basis. In fact, it’s one of the Halifax Partnership’s strategies to ensure its skills needs are met.

In addition to accessing a pool of newcomers and recent graduates for longer-term positions, and having a succession plan by promoting people within the organization, the Halifax Partnership also uses BoomersPlus, a digital platform that matches older or retired professionals to jobs opportunities.

BoomersPlus is a company founded in Nova Scotia with a footprint in Ontario and recently, New Brunswick. It’s one of the 100 private sector investors in the Halifax Partnership.

“We use Boomersplus for when we have a shorter-term role, and we need someone with experience to just jump right in, roll up their sleeves and keep going,” President and CEO Wendy Luther said.

“For us to continue to grow as we have been in Halifax, we as employers need to be strategic about how we’re tapping into all sources of employees or the variety of sources of employees to meet our goals. And individuals…who are at the end of their career is an important piece in that overall strategy,” she added.

“We continue to need to attract more people as well as to ensure that everyone in our community who is interested in working has the opportunity to be connected with meaningful work,” she said.

As of last July, Canada’s senior population increased to 17.5 percent of the total, more than children 14 years old and under, according to Statistics Canada. Almost 6.6 million Canadians are seniors, out of which, more than 51 percent are Baby Boomers.

Overall, Canada’s population has grown too, thanks largely to immigration. At the same time though, it’s no secret that the country, especially Atlantic Canada, is facing a talent shortage.

BoomersPlus director of corporate development Kevin MacIntyre says organizations now have no choice but to look at all options, including older and retired professionals.

Ageism is still a factor that hinders some from hiring older professionals, he said, adding that overcoming myths like boomers not being tech-savvy enough is key.

Luther said she’s not concerned with such stereotypes related to older professionals. The Halifax Partnership has filled five positions through BoomersPlus, one of them to help implement the Salesforce CRM system.

“[We] hired a very experienced individual who was able to come and join us for several months to help with that implementation,” Luther said. “Hiring experienced personnel has really helped us keep the momentum up on those projects because of the level of expertise of the individuals who have joined us.”

Hiring a consultant was a possibility, but there are advantages to hiring one person on a project basis.

“It’s fast in terms of time and deployment,” Luther said. “These individuals reside with us on an everyday basis, unlike the consultants we work with that would help multiple clients simultaneously. That’s one key differentiator.”

MacIntyre says in North America, around 10,000 baby boomers are retiring a week. BoomersPlus has approximately 9,000 people in its database, around 90 percent of which are retired professionals.

“…but they still want to work. They still want to contribute. And they still want to have the challenge of their work,” he said.

The database includes people with everything from CEO experience to sales representatives, and backgrounds in legal, operations, procurement, and marketing, etcetera.

MacIntyre said to tap into this pool of highly experienced professionals with an established network, companies may need to rethink their workforce plan.

“If there are some roles that can be done by project work or part-time, maybe [they] need to add that to [their] overall workforce planning,” he said. “I think the whole idea of workforce planning is coming around to the fact that if organizations are losing that experience, how do we get it back? And how do we balance if someone doesn’t want to work full-time?”

MacIntyre said employees and employers could also consider a slower transition to retirement.

“Maybe you don’t quit cold turkey on a Tuesday, and maybe you transition out over time. Perhaps if you want to, there’s a part-time role for you on an ongoing basis that fits your lifestyle but we can still tap into your experience,” he said.

He said experienced older professionals are especially useful additions to startups and non-profit organizations.

“Startups may not have the budget but need some of the experience as they grow.”