Age is a State of Mind … Not a State of Unemployment
How many of us have friends, neighbors, or family members who are looking for work? Perhaps even ourselves?! Probably quite a few, as the age of Covid has hit all too many businesses – and their employees - very hard. While many businesses are struggling to stay viable, a great number of their employees have been let go over the past year to figure it out on their own.
Unfortunately, this is a familiar cycle to those who’ve weathered economic hardships over the years. Younger workers tend to find replacement jobs faster and easier, but it’s much harder for those viewed as “older workers.” The definition varies, especially by industry, but on average it applies to people around age 45 and up.
As a business owner, you may be embracing or working towards greater diversity amongst your employees, not just to comply with governmental or societal pressures, but also to have a variety of perspectives and experiences on staff. You’ve probably considered matters of gender, race, sexual orientation, country or culture of origin, etc. But you may hesitate about bringing in older workers.
"In the past that majority of people retired at the age of 65. But those were the old days and it’s nothing like that now. In fact, nowadays people are joining companies at the age when they used to retire." - The Pros and Cons For Hiring Mature Workers
Sure, older folks dominate the “C” suite and ranks of upper management in many industries. Their years of experience, track record, and intimate knowledge of the business probably earned them their passage. But what about at other levels of your organization?
There’s a lot of hesitation at this point, though it may only be whispered quietly amongst those doing the hiring. After all, there is a long-held perception that older workers may not be able or willing to learn and adopt new technologies, adapt to a company culture that is defined by a younger generation, or be flexible enough in their work habits. There’s also concern that older workers cost too much in terms of salary expectations and health insurance coverage. Or that their health and physical abilities may not allow them to remain with the company as long as their younger counterparts.
The net effect is that it’s harder for these older individuals to find good positions for their knowledge, experience, and aptitudes. They’ll often have to look longer than their younger colleagues, “doctor” their resumes to remove a longer overall work experience so that they may seem younger than they are, and sometimes have to take a pay cut relative to their last position.
But there are some excellent reasons why older workers can be among your best employees. Here are seven ways in which they contribute towards the success of your business:
Their professional and personal experiences boost on-the-job performance. Not just their own
performances, but those of your other employees, too. These folks can assist others to solve problems, be a sounding board to others’ ideas, and provide stability in a hectic or pressured environment.
Overall, older employees are more punctual and less likely to call in sick. Many will be done with child-rearing and extended family responsibilities. Overall, they may have only minimal unexpected demands on their time that could interfere with their work schedules, as compared with your younger employees.
"Employers may have legitimate concerns about older workers being behind the curve when it comes to technology or a younger generation’s verbal and written jargon. However, computers and software, as well as euphemisms that do not necessarily sound like comprehendible American English can be taught in a short amount of time. What can’t be taught or trained for is the immense experience an older worker has after having spent 20 or 30 years in the field." - The Advantages and Disadvantages of Age Diversity in the Workplace
Valuable Personal Qualities
In addition to experience, older workers bring knowledge, a strong work ethic, and a willingness to learn new things. Most want to learn and use new technologies. They may not be among the first to discover and use new social media, but they get there all the same. Facebook is a primary example – just see how many younger people migrated to Instagram and Tik Tok, just to get away from their parents setting up their own Facebook accounts and wanting to “friend” them!
Older workers can actually save your company money in the longer term. How is this possible if they command higher salaries and health insurance coverage?
They’re less likely to switch jobs as often as their younger colleagues. Many are simply looking for satisfying work with a stable company that appreciates and rewards their efforts. Others are happy for steady employment and the social interactions it brings, as well as meaningful work that sees them into their retirement years (or beyond). Relatively few will be looking to “job hop” their way through multiple companies for greater responsibilities and income in a short period of time.
They require less training than their young counterparts because they’re more often than not hired because of their prior experience.
They make fewer “rookie” mistakes. Mature employees accumulate a lot of work-related experience throughout their careers. They may also place a higher priority on getting their work done right the first time, and so are also more careful on a daily basis. Younger employees often have a more casual attitude towards their work and have less experience knowing where to concentrate their efforts.
“Older workers also play an important role in providing skills to younger team members. By passing on their knowledge and experience, you gain more long-term employees through younger workers that stay with your company. Organizations that tend to have long-term employees save money.” - 5 Key Benefits of Hiring Older Workers
Positive Example to Others
Older colleagues can demonstrate those qualities that you want to see in your younger employees: professionalism, confidence, company loyalty, and a mature outlook and approach to sizing up and resolving problems. They can also be the steady rock of the office, staying neutral when tempers flare.
Less Drama in the Workplace
As with social dramas, mature workers are less likely to be involved with petty workplace politics.
They tend to keep their focus on their work and seek to prove themselves through dedication and commitment. They don’t feel like they need to “butter up” the boss to move ahead. They also stand a better chance of staying clear of any social dramas that develop outside of the workplace – a major distraction, as too many team leaders discover.
Reflect an Aging Consumer Base
As with any diversity hire, your company will benefit from having an inside consultant who understand the aging US consumer base. Your older workers can connect with their wants and needs, relate to their challenges, and advise your company on this growing market segment.