Two significant shifts are changing America’s workforce as we’ve known it. First, artificial intelligence (AI) continues to transform everything about work. AI technologies-related job displacement presents a major challenge to the American worker and it continues to disrupt our economy.
Equally disruptive is our rapidly aging workforce. The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging reported that by 2028 more than 25% of our national workforce will be 55 or older. How do older workers fit into the picture alongside rapid AI advancement? Each older worker will become even more valuable to a robust American economy.
Consider this: more jobs are available than people looking. Yet older workers too often face age discrimination when applying for roles in which they’d make excellent fits. If there are additional barriers to employment – such as being a veteran or being a woman – challenges to employment worsen.
But each of these older workers are America’s secret economic asset.
Automation using generative AI (such as ChatGPT) impacts a wide range of job tasks and workers. Yet, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s 2023 report shows no matter how advanced AI becomes, it can’t replace humans in many jobs.
Older workers have a unique edge right now with highly valuable experience, skills and wisdom that even AI can’t replicate. Additionally, their skill sets include qualities harnessed over a lifetime of work – skills younger generations are still learning to leverage, or don’t yet possess.
For example, in the age of AI, most businesses need meaningful relationship-building and in-person interactions more than ever. Older workers generally exemplify valued leadership and other soft skills like a honed professional demeanor, communication, adaptability and teamwork. They also have problem-solving abilities formed by years of experience and industry knowledge. AI doesn’t – and won’t – have these strengths.
AI also can’t train future generations to keep up with these very human skills. Mentor and mentee relationships have been at the core of training up future generations for years. In fact, even workers themselves have reported the benefits of a multigenerational workforce. The AARP found seven out of 10 U.S. workers enjoy working with people from other generations. Older workers appreciate the creativity and energy of younger workers, and younger workers value older workers’ experience and wisdom.
Those benefits extend beyond workplace satisfaction, creating measurable impacts on a company’s bottom line. An AARP report found companies with an above-average diversity in age, gender, nationality, career path, industry background and education on their management teams report innovation revenue that is 19% higher and profit margins that are 9% higher than companies with below-average diversity.
While some jobs have been and will be lost with the introduction and development of new technologies, even more jobs are created, or current jobs are made more productive. Companies adopting and adapting to AI technologies may see job reorganization, with tasks shifting depending on whether human workers have an advantage. The most experienced segment of the workforce would best leverage those advantages: older workers.
The growth in popularity of AI is not an obstacle to hiring older workers, but an ever more reason to hire them. Their proven experience is precisely what employers need to propel a bright future of American economic growth.