The debate over older workers staying on the job longer, and crowding out younger employees, won’t go away. In a recent Dear Abby column, “Disgusted in Columbus, Ohio,” blasted older workers for hanging onto their jobs “so they can live lavish lifestyles” at the expense of younger workers who don’t advance in the workplace, or worse, get laid off.
Yet as Dear Abby pointed out, many older adults stay on the job these days just to survive. During the financial crisis and recession, older workers were hard hit when the stock market tanked. Not only did so many on the verge of retirement lose a big chunk of their retirement savings, but they also had relatively few years left in the workplace to build back savings. As a result, many opted to stay on the job longer to try to recover financially.
Studies suggest that these assertions, which pit older and younger workers against on e another, are just plain wrong. Recent research, including a Pew Charitable Trust report, found that older workers who remain on the job do not take away opportunities for younger adults. In other words, if the job market is strong, the economy can grow and benefit workers of all ages.
It was also pointed out that jobs held by older workers tend to require more experience and knowledge. So when older adults do leave the workforce, it doesn’t necessarily mean that young workers will be hired to fill those positions.
What’s more, older Americans are defying myths about an aging workforce: Boomers are better educated and healthier than their parents and are able to work longer in retirement, thanks to the service-dominated economy.
Check out these Myths vs. Reality. It may change your view:
- Myth: Older workers are more likely to be burned out and less productive than their younger colleagues. Reality: According to a 2009 report from the Sloan Center on Aging & Work, hiring managers gave older employees high marks for loyalty, reliability and productivity.
- Myth: Older workers are unequipped to multitask and juggle the technological distractions of the modern office. Reality: The cognitive skills that enable us to switch between tasks can be delayed with exercise and training. So a 75-year-old who is smart and active could easily outperform a 40-year-old couch slouch.
- Myth: Older workers aren’t as creative as younger workers. Reality: Older workers have been shown to perform well when it comes to organization, writing and problem solving, among other skills — even in cutting-edge fields like computer science
AARP and others have long argued that older workers are reliable, flexible, experienced and possess valuable institutional knowledge. Increasingly, employers seem to want these traits.
The fabled retirement that Americans worked for and enjoyed decades ago may no longer be an option for today’s seniors. It’s increasingly rare to find an organization, even a union company, which offers a pension that is sufficient to live on. And since people today are living longer, it takes even more money than ever before to provide food, housing and necessities for what could stretch out to decades.
Here are a few benefits an older employee may provide:
- They may offer decades of relevant experience and, if they enjoy health coverage, may offer the experience you require for less money than a younger candidate requiring full benefits.
- They’re probably more comfortable than younger candidates with flexible hours.
- They are not aggressively seeking to advance their career; they may be perfectly comfortable in the role they land for years longer than younger staff. You probably won’t have to worry about them playing political games that can spoil any office environment.
- As such, they are not job-hoppers – and turnover can be very expensive for any company.
- They’re experienced at problem solving.
- More-seasoned talent may be more engaged – they possess a desire to be involved, and are focused on tasks.
- They’re likely to be surprisingly technological savvy. Boomers are comfortable using computers. Where there are skill gaps, they can and are eager to learn.
- They already know what they’re good at.
- They grew up in a time when work life balance meant you worked until the job was done.
- They’re willing to by loyal to you for the next 7-10 years, which is more loyalty than you’ll get from anyone else you hire.
- We all miss work for stuff. Older workers statistically don’t miss work more than younger workers.
Changing the perspective on older workers:
One of the main issues hiring managers face in hiring older workers is the fact the person they are hiring probably has more experience than they do. Most won’t admit this, but this can be an intimidating factor.
So where can businesses find a dependable, steady workforce that has no plans to move up and out? A workforce dedicated to the job at hand and that takes pride in its work? Who will cost them less to hire, train and maintain?
The answer? Older workers.
Older workers’ unique skills and values–and the potential savings to your company in time and money–make hiring them a simple matter of rethinking the costs of high turnover in a more youthful workforce vs. the benefits of experience and mature standards older workers bring to the mix. You simply do not have the time or resources to deal with high employee turnover. The next time you need to make a hiring decision, you should seriously consider older workers: Their contribution to your company could positively impact your bottom line for years to come.
And that’s the truth!!!
So, join the dialogue. What’s your opinion regarding Boomers in the workplace? I know what I think…but don’t let that stop you with your opinion.
As always, I am…an open-minded Boomer Explorer.