It’s time for a cultural wake-up call. Here’s the business case for hiring and retaining workers 50+. The beauty of it is that everyone wins from companies to workers, and, you bet, the economy.
When it comes to hiring, smart employers know that it’s not about age. Really. An innovative company wants talented people, period. And in a tight labor market, now more than ever, employers need to open their eyes to the possibilities of wooing those with decades of hard-wired knowledge.
The truth is experience, put simply, gives you an edge. Trust me, I know this cadre of workers, and I’m one of them. After a myriad of interviews with employers who get it, more than a decade on the age beat, and numerous books on the job market and the 50+ set, including Great Jobs for Everyone 50+, Getting The Job You Want after 50+, What’s Next? and, my latest, Never Too Old To Get Rich, here are the top ten reasons to hire and retain workers 50+.
1. Loyalty and stability. They’re more settled and not as likely to jump jobs when the next sweet offer comes down the pike. And it pays to keep them on the job. It costs more to bring in new staff than it does to retain, and commit to developing current employees.
Firms invest a ridiculous amount of hours and financial resources into the screening, hiring and training of new employees, only to find that many employees leave for a shiny, higher-paying new position elsewhere in what seems like a blink of the eye. In a recent report about employment trends, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago reported that businesses in its region said “that they had been ‘ghosted,’ a situation in which an employee stops coming to work without notice and goes silent. So far, the practice seems to be limited to younger workers, according to my sources.
2. Decision-making skills. An obvious benefit of older workers is the experience and skills they bring to a job. You’ve got someone who can solve your problem today. Isn’t that the goal? An experienced worker can hit the ground running and be effective tout de suite. They also have honed those critical-thinking skills that can help them make solid decisions in a timely fashion without hand-holding and second-guessing.
Employers may have quibbles about older workers being behind the curve when it comes to technology. But, in reality, that’s not really the case these days with the Gen Xers and Boomers I know. Nonetheless, those skills can be taught, even if it might take a little bit longer. No amount of training can provide the knowledge and wisdom gained through 20 or 30 years spent in the field.
3. Mojo. Older workers tend to be poised and self-assured. The best employees are those who bring a mix of confidence and expertise–that combo shines with the rich patina that comes with age.
4. Cognitive capacity. The whole set of mental abilities that you look for in a great employee are baked in: management skills, leadership skills, communication skills, empathy —those qualities keep developing as we age.
And when a great idea percolates up, older workers are adept at sussing out what to make of it because they can weigh it against what’s succeeded and failed and how high the bar truly is to hitting one out of the park.
5. Attitude. Older workers are proactive, positive, and practical. This might be a generalization, but from my experience, at this stage, the big life challenges are behind them-the kids are launched, big ticket money drains are easing as the mortgage is paid off and so forth. This is the time in life where they can focus their energy on their jobs and love their work with a focus that wasn’t possible at a younger age.
6. Collaborative. Experienced workers are well versed in the pay back of reaching out to others from multiple disciplines, ages, and backgrounds for their insights and input. They value team work.
And the truth is, for many workers over 50, it’s easier than ever to be a player at this stage of the journey. The big ego days are behind them. They’re energized by working with a diverse cadre of co-workers.
At the heart of it, when you really dig down and ask, they will tell you that being the I run the shop boss and responsible for managing others’ careers is not what gets them psyched, honestly. They’d rather skip the stress of that, concentrate their efforts on performing their own best work for the firm, making an impact and a difference. That’s autonomy and results in firing on all cylinders.
7. Leadership skills. Workers who have been at it for a few decades are often good leaders, in large part due to their intrinsic communication skills. Communication wasn’t ruled by e-mail, texting or social media, as they developed their working lives. As a result, they have sharp communication and people skills. Younger workers often wrestle with that vital workplace ingredient.
8. Essential skills and networks. They often have greater management, marketing, and finance experience, and richer, deeper industry knowledge. According to a study conducted by The Center on Aging and Work at Boston College, 46.3 percent of employer respondents said that their older employees have stronger professional networks and client networks compared to 30 percent who said the same about their younger workers.
9. Productivity. Age diversity improves organizational performance. Studies have found that the productivity of both older and younger workers is higher in companies with mixed-age work teams.
10. Mentors. This is the buzzy benefit that gets all the attention, so I can’t let it slip. Older workers play a vital role in providing skills to younger people in the workplace. And the learning goes both ways. Each generation riffs off the other to create a workplace where you want to be on the playing field. You respect each other.
And here’s the key piece of this co-mentoring game. You learn new ways of doing things, and your mind shifts.
I teach my HOVER method. (You can read about it in Never Too Old To Get Rich) The V in HOVER stands for Value. Value is critical. This means having the inner confidence to know that if you put out the effort, you will get results or see progress.
It means you yourself value your own work, skills, and talents. It means you believe in yourself. That inner compass, pulled by confidence, will help direct your actions. It’s subtle, but those around you will sense and respond to it.
One way to build your sense of value is to continually be learning new things. The most creative people I know frequently get involved in learning or self-improvement efforts. It’s fun. When you do so, everything else around you becomes more stimulating. When you’re gaining knowledge, you see the world around you. You spot things. You listen better. Your mind turns on.
What’s all this “value” building mean for employers? Your employees of all ages bring it. It’s a magic combination.
And, well, in my speak, cool.
As Gary Kesner, executive vice president for Silvercup Studios, a family-owned film and television production company in New York where shows like “The Sopranos,” “Girls” and “Sex and the City” have been filmed, told me, when I interviewed him for my New York Times article on reaping the benefits of the aging workforce: “We didn’t sit around and say, ‘O.K., we are going to have a plan to hire and keep older workers. It is not part of an overall program. It just makes sense for us.”