People Are Living (and Working) Longer: How is the Public Sector Adapting?

People are living much longer than ever before. In fact, according to the New Map of Life study from the Stanford Center on Longevity, many of today's five-year-olds in America are projected to live to be 100-years-old. This means that future workers can expect to work for 60 years of their life or more.

This new "work-life expectancy" —  or the average number of years that a person will spend working — will have enormous implications on how public sector organizations approach teaching people new skills and continuing education in the workplace through upskilling and reskilling.

The Future of Upskilling and Reskilling

Upskilling is the process of teaching workers interesting and new skills within their fields or departments, while reskilling is the process of training someone to do a different job. Both are critical as a future centenarian will likely hold many positions at any given organization and even a variety of different careers over time. Employees will continue to learn beyond just the first two decades they live. The Stanford Center on Longevity's New Map of Life predicts that there will be more learning outside the margins of a traditional education model.

Employees will be able to acquire the knowledge they need during each different phase of life. They’ll also be able to learn in ways that fit their abilities, budgets, schedules, needs and abilities in each life stage. Educating in this way is a novel concept. Therefore, public sector organizations should start looking at ways to adapt their current workplace education structures and the ways they teach things now to prepare for the future.

What Does a 60-Year Career Mean for the Future of Work?

For public sector organizations, a new work-life expectancy of 60 years will lead to major shifts in how organizations approach educating workers. Future centenarians will need flexible routes in and out of their careers like unpaid and paid interims for caregiving, lifelong learning, expanding health needs and more, according to the Stanford Center on Longevity.  

We’ve seen the importance of flexibility in the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic and certain trends are already forecasting changes in employees' priorities when selecting work. According to new research by Paychex, 62% of people surveyed said that good employee health benefits are a deciding factor when choosing a job. The most popular benefits include mental health benefits and support with financial planning and digital budgeting.

Another trend associated with the future of work is the rise in skill-based hiring. Artificial intelligence continues to change the way we work and requires new in-demand skills and jobs. According to an article forecasting 21 human resources jobs of the future, HR’s role in organizations is increasing in importance. A variety of new HR jobs will be created from now until 2030. Many of these positions focus on humans working with artificial intelligence.

How Do Upskilling and Reskilling Come into Play During a Person’s Career?

Future centenarians will have more opportunities as life expectancy increases. They will be able to try new ways to work, including freelancing, consulting and retirement in phases. According to the Stanford Center on Longevity, "older workers are more likely to opt for a flexible schedule over promotions or pay increases, drawing many to consulting or gig work, and creating incentives for employers to offer part-time jobs and work-from-home options."

In the future, older workers will also have more opportunities to pursue different career interests through new jobs in different fields. One of the biggest challenges older workers face today is keeping their skills relevant as the job landscape changes rapidly. To adapt, aging employees will need ongoing training. Public sector organizations have the opportunity to address this need by incorporating multigenerational development and learning practices in their workplaces, which allow for continuous learning throughout an employee’s life. Learning and development build resilience in businesses as skills are transferred between workers throughout an agency, which means that public sector employers and employees alike benefit from this practice.

Key Takeaways

As work-life expectancy increases, public sector organizations will need to continuously evolve how they train their new employees and continue to educate older employees. Upskilling and reskilling will be vital for training older employees for new jobs and keeping skills up to date.

As longevity at work increases, employee health benefits and flexibility in work will also grow in importance. Future centenarians will seek flexible routes in and out of the workplace, including paid and unpaid intervals for caregiving, health needs, lifelong learning and other transitions, according to the Stanford Center on Longevity. In the future, public sector organizations may need to consider how they will offer this flexibility as part of their employees' benefits plan.

Finally, public sector organizations should continue to take care in ensuring an age-inclusive model of employment in their workplaces. After all, age diversity is a positive influence for all organizations.

This new "work-life expectancy" — or the average number of years that a person will spend working — will have enormous implications on how public sector organizations approach teaching people new skills and continuing education in the workplace through upskilling and reskilling.
People Are Living (and Working) Longer: How is the Public Sector Adapting?DOWNLOAD
Regina W. Romeo

Ms. Romeo has more than 20 years of experience in public sector human resources as an analyst, manager and director. In her role as Chief Human Resources Officer, she is responsible for managing the day-to-day HR operations and organizational development for CPS while also consulting and managing special projects for clients. Regina has worked for both large and small public sector agencies and brings a unique perspective and real-world experience to her role.

About CPS HR Consulting

CPS HR Consulting is a self-supporting public agency providing a full range of integrated HR solutions to government and nonprofit clients across the country.  Our strategic approach to increasing the effectiveness of human resources results in improved organizational performance for our clients.  We have a deep expertise and unmatched perspective in guiding our clients in the areas of organizational strategy, recruitment and selection, classification and compensation, and training and development.