As my fingers peck the keyboard, I’m a spry 48 years old. I currently have more energy than any 20-something I’ve ever met. Much more importantly, I have more years of work experience than most of that generation has lived on this earth. Even so, many companies find a person like me too old for many of their positions.
Me being me, I couldn’t care less, but I am greatly concerned for those sliding through the back half of their careers as they plan for what will likely be much lengthier “back halves” than the ones their parents enjoyed.
Even worse, according to a recent Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) Aging Workforce Research Initiative, 52% of companies polled are either “not aware of any potential changes” or “have examined their workforce and determined that no changes in their policies and practices are necessary.” (Roughly one-third of that 52 percent—19 percent overall—are “just becoming aware of potential changes.”)
At first glance, you might be wondering why we need any changes. After all, we’ve survived for a few centuries without “major” changes. This is analogous to the issue our country is facing with Social Security, Medicare, and other aging-related benefit programs. We simply have a greater percentage of our population needing these types benefits than every before in the modern era.
This was manageable for companies when employees retired at a “reasonable age” falling somewhere between 55 and 65 years old. Now, thanks to some extremely turbulent employment and stock markets, many employees are simply unable to retire at the age they planned. Even some who are able have become reluctant as they imagine a potential reprise of what they endured within the last decade.
Many companies’ answer to this issue is simply to avoid hiring these older workers, but I think that’s a shortsighted mistake. At the moment, many employers are experiencing a shortage of talented people and these more experienced workers would provide you a more sizable candidate pool. Regardless of the current market conditions, there are many great benefits to hiring more experienced people!
They are simply more, uh, experienced. They have been working longer and seen more. That’s obvious. They have also likely worked the kinks out of whatever techniques haven’t worked previously. You’re likely to get someone who can do the job better.
They’re really not (much) more expensive. Most organizations assume older resources cost more. Sometimes that’s true, but for most positions it’s actually not. My company, milewalk, has several years’ worth of statistics related to the positions we fulfill. Once a salesperson, for example, reaches a certain “years of experience level,” their guaranteed compensation levels off because much of what they earn is related to variable pay (commission). This actually holds true for many other positions as well.
They can serve as a coach. Personal experience is the greatest teacher, but older workers can be the second greatest teacher by mentoring the younger staff.
They are typically more objective and balanced. Experience leads to an ability to cut through subjectivity. It also provides a bigger pool of options and ideas to choose from when making critical decisions.
They tend to be more independent thinkers and often don’t require validation. These days, no one seems to be able to make a decision on his or her own. Even fewer people want to take accountability for their decisions. More experienced people tend to be less concerned with corporate politics and simply want to make their work environment a better place.
They are more loyal. I attribute this to the fact that more experienced workers have already been through their odyssey of “what should I be when I grow up.” As a result, they have already “found themselves” and know what make them happy.
They have bigger networks. It’s a law of the universe that the longer you live the more people you know. These networks can lead to more employee referrals or more sales leads. A bigger network is simply better in every manner you can imagine.
They’re less concerned with trivial matters. The more you work, the more you understand what is actually important versus what is a waste of time.