Workforce Shortages: How do factors outside the workplace effect employee retention? Back »

In Workforce shortages: Technology Modifications we discussed technology and the role usability plays in the ability of employees to perform work related duties. In our final installment of our series, Workforce Shortages: Beyond the Retirement Crisis, we will discuss additional factors that play a role in retaining older workers.

External Factors & Worker Retention

Organizations and businesses do not exist in a vacuum. In addition, each individual employee has ties to many other people and organizations outside the employer. Because of the complexity of our social arrangements, there may be external factors that impact the ability of people to remain in the workforce.


Transportation is one example. A person may not be able to drive an automobile for various reasons, including injury, vision loss, or even the expense of vehicle maintenance and ownership. I met an older woman who transitioned from her job as a nurse to a data entry clerk. Her capacity to contribute to her organization will likely outlast her ability to drive. While not necessarily an organizational responsibility, transportation may pose a barrier for some workers and volunteers.

Family Caregiving

Family caregiving is one of the most notable issues that will impact the capacity of employees to contribute to the workforce. In fact, one out of six working Americans report assisting with the care of a person with a disability. More than half of these people are employed full-time. Two out of five caregivers leave their job to have more time to care for a loved one. One in three leave because their work does not provide flexible hours. Other impacts on the employer include lost productivity, missed workdays, employee retention and replacement, and increased health insurance costs.

Other Factors

Other factors may impact employee retention. For example, some pension plans include a final salary clause which might deter employees from engaging in phased retirement. Another barrier might be mandatory retirement age. Identifying these barriers and others that may incentivize early retirement may be necessary to retain older workers. Strategies to remove these barriers will likely be diverse, requiring input at the local, state, and federal level.

Worker Retention Strategies

What strategies can organizations and businesses employ to reduce the impact of external barriers to employment?


  • Explore partnerships with transportation providers in the community.
  • Implement a carpool incentive program.

Family caregiving:

  • Offer eldercare support, resources, and referral services to caregiver employees.
  • Allow flex-scheduling, which provides alternate work arrangements: flex-time, compressed workweeks (i.e., working 10 hour days), part-time or working fewer hours for part of the year, and telecommuting.
  • For hourly employees on more-strict schedules, do away with no-fault absenteeism policies that provide termination based on number of tardies or absences no matter the reason.
  • Partner with Adult Day Centers and Child Care Centers to help provide information and support to employees who are caring for adults with disabilities or children. Larger organizations may be able to have an Adult Day Center on site.
  • Offer programs such as Stress Busting or Better Choices. Better Health. during lunch hours.

Do you want to read more about retaining older workers? Please visit to read Workforce Shortages: Beyond the Retirement Crisis.


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