The statistics are staggering. In the next 20 years, the percentage of U.S. citizens over 65 years old will almost double. With more than 70 millionsenior workers “baby boomers” reaching retirement age in the next few years, a tremendous gap in the workforce is looming. There are only 50 million workers to take the place of retirees, and the country is bracing for a sharp drop in productivity. As entrepreneurs and small business owners, we are positioned to be on the front lines of this sweeping change and we can either lead the way through this looming challenge or get swallowed up by it. The laws of supply and demand dictate a strong future need to retain and attract older workers.

Understanding “seasoned” workers is critical to keeping them happy and gaining from their experience. Of course, every person is unique and it isn’t wise to make assumptions based on a stereotype, but older workers have certain tendencies you should appreciate:

Loyalty. Having spent most of their lives in a world where corporations and workers are loyal to each other, these employees will tend to stay in place longer, making training expenses more cost effective.

Accountability. Older workers are more accustomed to accepting responsibility rather than shifting blame to someone else when something goes wrong. They’re less likely to feel they need to compete and more likely to move on after setbacks rather than staying mentally engaged in the failure.

Sanity Check. Mature workers have seen great ideas tested by real conditions. They will often know what works and what doesn’t work in a practical sense. Younger workers might have quick, inquisitive, creative minds, but their elders will know if creative strategies are feasible.

Cool Heads. When your company is faced with an unusually stressful event, those who have been around the block a few more times are likely to offer some needed emotional stability.

By developing effective, creative strategies to incorporate an aging workforce, our companies will retain productivity while competitors struggle.

By Chuck Chamberlain, ELP editor-in-chief