How often do you hear a hiring manager from a company say, “We’ve got to hire older workers.” Just taking a guess – but probably not frequently. And yet, older workers could be one of the secret weapons to overcome the labor shortage. While many companies struggle to find qualified employees, Americans over 65 are one of the few demographic groups where employment levels have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels. So, why are companies ignoring this demographic, and why should they make a concerted effort to recruit older workers? FirstLantic explains why a company’s greatest asset may be older workers.
First, we don’t have to guess why most businesses don’t hire older workers. Ageism does exist. A research study on behalf of Deloitte asked approximately 10,000 companies whether age was a competitive disadvantage. Over two-thirds of the companies said that it was. This is consistent with data from AARP that shows two-thirds of individuals aged 45 to 74 have experienced age-related discrimination. Some misnomers about older workers include that they aren’t tech-savvy, don’t have the stamina to keep up, won’t fit in, and expect an exorbitant salary. Or, as Mark Zuckerberg famously said, “younger people are just smarter.” Now that he’s almost 40, I wonder if he regrets that statement. In all fairness, he was only 22 when he made that comment, and most of us would probably regret a few things we did and said when we were younger. But the point is that myths about age and work are not limited to Mark Zuckerberg. A survey of hiring managers by the employment nonprofit, Generation, found that most of them felt workers under 45 have the best skills and fit into a corporate culture most easily. Yet older workers perform better than younger workers in real-world scenarios. “Hiring managers have a negative view of 45+ job seekers,” the report concluded, “even though employers rate [them] highly.”
Fortunately, the narrative is starting to change, and companies that have embraced hiring more experienced workers have reaped the benefits. Scientific evidence on this issue shows that while, for most people, raw mental horsepower declines after the age of 30, knowledge and expertise — the main predictors of job performance — keep increasing even beyond the age of 80. Evidence also suggests that drive and curiosity are catalysts for new skill acquisition, even during late adulthood. And intellectually engaged people tend to be lifelong learners regardless of their age. The more intellectually curious, the more they will contribute positively to the labor market. But there are many other reasons why companies should be recruiting older workers.
- Less Churn
Older workers are not as likely to jump ship as younger workers, and when they find a place they like, they tend to stay. In a study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median tenure of workers ages 55-64 in all industries was 10.4 years, more than three times the 3.0 years for workers ages 25-34. Turnover costs companies millions of dollars annually in recruiting, training, and lost productivity when jobs are vacant, so less churn means more profits.
Let’s face it, experience does matter. It enables better decision-making skills, and workers can draw on past situations to solve problems. Older workers have most likely experienced many complex dilemmas in their careers, so they are not blindsided or paralyzed when something difficult lands on their plate. And they don’t panic.
Workers with extensive experience are more self-assured in their abilities and feel they have less to prove. When starting out in a career, some younger employees can be overzealous in trying to prove they have all the answers when they are just covering up insecurities. They may even alienate their co-workers in the process. Edward Bolognini, executive director of ReServe, a New York City-based organization specializing in work opportunities for older adults, says, “Older workers have an emotional quotient that younger workers haven’t had an opportunity to develop.”
Many employees with longer careers are past conflicting priorities that can affect their focus at work. Most likely, they have already raised their children and are less financially burdened, so they can fully devote their time and energy to their job. And for those above retirement ages, many choose to work primarily because they enjoy it. They appreciate being productive, which positively affects their attitude and overall job satisfaction.
Again, when you have nothing left to prove, you are more likely to be willing to impart your knowledge to others and work more effectively in a team. You’re no longer competing with your co-workers for that next promotion, so you can readily share your insight. You are more concerned with getting the job done rather than caring who gets the credit.
Of course, these are not the only reasons to hire workers over the age of 45. Specific skills based on experience are hard to teach younger workers, and older employees are often strong mentors. And the lack of drama and gossip that comes with the wisdom of age can be refreshing. In addition, companies that focus on diversity in all aspects are also 60% more likely to outperform their peers where decision-making is concerned. So, businesses that want to stay ahead of the curve and take advantage of the relatively untapped potential of older workers should start recruiting them now. And if we haven’t convinced you of the benefits of experience yet, consider that Warren Buffett accumulated 90% of his wealth after age 65 and continues running a billion-dollar company at 91 years young!
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