Those who are familiar with my business, know I do a fair amount of recruiting for client businesses. I hear a lot of things from them, but sometimes I hear this, “Don, what I’m really looking for is someone younger, certainly no older than early 40’s.” When I recruit for client companies I don’t hear that everyday. Yet I do hear it. It is part of a culture that suggests older workers are not good hires. Businesses, thinking they are saving money are opting for less experienced, less knowledgeable and less skilled workers. That is both a tactical and strategic mistake built on myth and limiting beliefs.
Much has been said about the apparently growing lack of skilled and talented workers in the US. According to the Wall Street Journal in a July 2014 article, 33% of small-business owners and chief executives said they had unfilled job openings in June because they couldn’t identify qualified applicants, up from 31% of 811 owners nearly two years ago.
What really makes me shake my head in amused disbelief is that many companies experiencing talent shortages are also experiencing slow or low productivity. While they may be profitable, they are nowhere close to the levels they could achieve. All because of the limiting beliefs created by myth.
For businesses with self-insured health care plans the argument often begins with “they will cost us more because of health issues.” While certainly, older individuals are more likely to use health care benefits than their younger counterparts this becomes balanced when comparing the costs as an employed unit. In other words, younger workers have families with children, families having children AND many of the same health issues as older workers. Ultimately the cost is balanced out when considering the full family as opposed to simply individuals.
All businesses concern themselves with workers compensation costs and workplace safety. The mental image stereotype of an older worker falling, tripping, forgetting a safety step and injuring themselves is in existence. The data doesn’t necessarily support this. In fact when you look at the incident rate of workers over age 65 and compare them to workers aged 25-34 the gap is quite significant. With the older group experiencing 89 incidents per 10,000 workers and the younger group experiencing 106.6. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, The average rate of injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work to recuperate was 112 cases per 10,000 full-time workers in 2012.
Productivity often is cited as well. Some believe that older workers, especially those over age 60, are less productive. A recent study by the Brookings Institute shows that older workers are not less productive. In fact, their productivity is higher.
What makes older workers a good investment? Lets start with a harsh reality, According to a Stanford University study, “By 2020, older workers age 55+ will account for 25% of the U.S. labor force, up from just 13% in 2000.” With that knowledge and the increasing demand for a skilled workforce in an environment of an inability to find good workers, the solution is obvious. Older workers bring great value and should not be discounted for any reason. Consider these benefits of hiring older workers:
Older Workers are less likely to leave a new job for ‘greener pastures’. They are most often focused on stability instead of career growth.
Older Workers have many years of experience and a broad set of skills. They require less training and travel more readily. Experience means faster more value added contributions.
Older Workers are more engaged than younger workers. They suffer from fewer distractions such as social media interactions. They are more focused because the stimulus is the job. Engagement drives productivity.
Older Workers have greater communication skills. They realize communication is not a blast of information through some form of technology, but a face to face interaction that shares information in real time and involves all of the senses. As an added benefit they can coach and mentor younger workers who do not have these well-developed skills.
It is no secret that all workplace issues, both good and bad, are managed by strong leadership. Because of their experience in both personal and professional situations, Older Workers are well positioned to help train, mentor, and coach future leaders. This helps ensure that leadership is a major contributing positive influence in your business.
There are many more but these few are more than sufficient by themselves.
So where is all of this going? Simply put, don’t discount older workers because you believe in myths. Open your mind and hire for value added talent. Your company will be the better for it.
Want to know more? Ask me, I’m here to help.
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