- Patricia Neuray
WorkForce Diversity Includes Older Workers
Businesses are struggling to find qualified candidates, yet an untapped demographic is willing and able to work. No, they are not Millennials or Gen Z; they are Baby Boomers. Many Baby Boomers don't want to retire yet but can’t find companies willing to hire them. So, while businesses spend countless hours and millions of dollars courting younger workers, they miss out on an untouched candidate pool. BCT Partners considers why organizations should reconsider their recruiting strategies to include the older demographic.
Unfortunately, we don't have to guess why many businesses don't hire older workers. Ageism is real. 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.”
But, while the prevailing attitude is that younger workers are more likely to fit in, leaders are finding the younger generations of workers, especially Gen Z, more challenging to manage. CEO Jonathan Ben Zvi of All Forward said, "... Gen Z is used to instant gratification and may become easily frustrated if they don't see results immediately." Another CEO, Max Benz, the founder, and CEO at BankingGeek, noted, "One of the biggest challenges I've faced in managing Gen Z employees is helping them to develop a work ethic. Many of them are used to being rewarded for things like participation and effort, rather than results.” But will this experience change the perception of hiring older workers?
Fortunately, the narrative is slowly 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.
1. 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 9.9 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 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 and 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.
The bottom line is successful companies hire teams that can bring varied perspectives. That means embracing diversity in every aspect, including hiring more mature candidates. Specific skills based on experience are harder to teach younger workers, and older employees are often strong mentors. In addition, companies that diversify their workforce are 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 yet convinced you of the benefits of experience, consider that Warren Buffett accumulated 90% of his wealth after age 65 and continues to run a billion-dollar company at 91 years young!
To learn more about how BCT Partners helps companies diversify their workforce, click here.
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