Despite evidence that older workers are delaying retirement and staying in the workforce, employers remain deeply concerned about the impact of the loss of skilled intellectual or technical labor on their organizations.

This is a key finding of a survey by Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., New York, which polled 240 employers to examine their attitudes and behaviors towards the aging workforce.

Titled MetLife Emerging Retirement Model Study, the report assesses how plan sponsors are recalibrating strategies with their older workers and identifies budding practices that may be used to make the most of these experienced workers.

When employers were asked which of 2 retirement issues, delayed retirement or the knowledge drain, are of greater concern, 74% said they were primarily concerned about the knowledge drain as older workers retire. Only 26% said they were primarily concerned about the impact on their overall workforce as older employees delay retirement, MetLife says.

Asked to look ahead 3 to 5 years, 70% anticipated being chiefly concerned about the knowledge drain, as opposed to 30% about the impact of delayed retirement, the company says.

Despite concerns, few employers have taken steps to curtail or assess the impact of an aging workforce on their organizations. According to the findings, 97% of those employers concerned about the knowledge drain have not yet calculated the cost to transfer knowledge from older to younger employees.

In addition to retirement delays spurred by recent economic events, employers surveyed believe that in the next 3 to 5 years, employees will delay retirement by 3 years on average, from ages 64 to 67. This should give employers extra time to assess the needs of their organization, calculate the cost of transferring their knowledge and complete plans to shift knowledge from their aging workforce to younger generations, MetLife says.

Of employers that are mainly concerned about the impact of delayed retirement, 87% say employees are working longer to rebuild their retirement nest eggs in light of the recent economic downturn.

Other reasons cited by the survey for delayed retirement include:

–Wanting to work long enough to qualify for Social Security benefits (67%);

–Needing income to meet day-to-day expenses or pay bills (63%); and

–Wanting to maintain medical coverage until they qualify for Medicare (41%).