The Great Reshuffle continues as the shortage of front-line and hourly workers is still strongly felt across the labor market by industries in the private sector including airlines, gyms, hospitality, all manner of office environments, and elder care, to name just a few. Organizations are struggling with finding, hiring, and keeping good people yet ageism bias is rampant in the workplace, with many solid job seekers being overlooked. This workplace best practice is so simple that we fail to include it in our retention strategies. It is time to ask: Are older workers the answer to your hiring and retention issues?
Younger to middle-aged workers up to age 54 tend to look for employment that pays fairly while helping them fulfill their career vision. The mature worker in the 55-80 and beyond category seeks work for somewhat different reasons. Some have moved on from their earlier occupations and many of them will enjoy more years and even decades of good health. This, coupled with the ever-increasing cost of living and the uncertainty about Social Security has many of them rethinking what their futures look like.
Soft Skills and the Older Worker
Compassionate and empathetic. Warm and engaging. Able to size up customer situations charitably, and smoothly resolve service issues. Strong in the areas of relationship building and rapport with their workplace teammates. All qualities that workers aged 50 and up tend to bring to an organization. While every company’s customer service training should include these areas, with more experienced workers many of these soft skills are already in place–skills that are harder to teach than those of a more technical nature. Their customer service motivation tends to be strong. Seasoned in the best possible sense, mature employees can provide knowledge and a greater sense of stability to a team, not to mention loyalty to an organization. And many appreciate the opportunity to mentor younger members of their teams.
A Strong Work Ethic: Getting the Job Done Right
Older Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, and the post-WWll group aged 78+ are famous for their strong work ethic. While not opposed to learning how to “work smarter” the idea of not working as hard is not in their collective wheelhouse. Generally speaking, they are already in the habit of showing up on time, meeting their deadlines, and are willing to spend additional time and effort to do something right. It is more of a “best it can be” approach than an “it’s good enough” mindset. Especially with the increasing use of AI for customer experience, our world offers increasingly quick results. However:
“You can’t microwave emotional intelligence.”
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI): A Fresh Perspective on the 50+ Crowd
Author and executive coach Dethra Giles believes many in HR overly focus on technical proficiencies when considering job applicants, despite that many older people are eager to learn and continue participating in today’s workplace. Worse, they assume older candidates might not have the ability to learn new technologies. Yet of the Baby Boomer generation in particular, two-thirds hold a college degree. They have strong entrepreneurial leanings and are twice as likely as Millennials to form new businesses. And since they aren’t necessarily looking for their next big career move, they are more likely to stick around, improving an organization’s employee retention rate.
For those currently employed older workers, despite their having many positive attributes, ageism happens. According to AARP in a 2021 survey close to 80 percent of them reported experiencing or seeing workplace age discrimination. In March 2023 a Louisiana-based company was sued by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for the age-related firing of an employee when she refused to retire at 65.
In the words of EEOC Trial Attorney Peter Theis, “Employers that discriminate against older workers violate the law.”
Giles recalled a conversation with a CEO over age 65, in which he shared that his company did not focus on recruitment of Baby Boomers for key roles or otherwise. Yet he planned on sitting on a board of directors after his retirement, saying he had “a lot left to give”. He admitted never considering how many other mature workers might feel the same way about their own work lives and capabilities.
Research is showing the main predictors of job performance–knowledge and expertise–keep increasing even into the eighth decade of life. For reasons including and beyond DEI, bringing more experienced employees on board is something to consider. Look to the example of financial leaders Warren Buffet and his close associate Charlie Munger, both in their 90s and continuing to thrive in the world of finance.
8 Ways to Attract Experienced Workers to Your Organization
In a recent Forbes article, Sara Zeff Geber, Ph.D. shared seven ways to attract and keep more highly experienced workers, based on an Activated Insights survey of 35,000 older workers in the US:
- Offer meaningful roles connected to the organization’s mission
- Think beyond rigid schedules; provide flexible scheduling
- Make sure value and level of work matter more than tenure at the company
- Shift leader mindset from transactional to one of empathetic engagement
- Create the best environment with physical accommodations when needed
- Encourage open and respectful communication among age groups
- Have a zero-tolerance policy for ageism; highlight older workers as well as younger
- Add fun to the mix, encouraging camaraderie within the work community
The Myth of Competition: Equity for All Ages Leads to a Healthier Economy
Companies are taking notice of the paradox of over 10 million unfilled jobs in the US yet so many older candidates are being overlooked. AARP reported a 128% increase in 2022 in companies pledging to fairly consider candidates 50 and over during recruitment and the hiring process. And the demographics will keep shifting. An article by the National Civic League stated that in 1960 the population had a much larger number of younger people than older people. By 2060, however, the numbers will be “relatively equal” across ages. Age diversity is here to stay.
The good news is that older workers who remain employed or get hired for new positions do not take jobs away from younger workers after all. This “us versus them” idea, while deeply embedded in our culture, is being disproven by economic studies finding that the opposite is true. Generational diversity has a positive impact. In terms of overall economic growth, the longer employees remain in the workforce, the better it is for everyone at the macro level.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Carpe Momento—seize the moment! Our focus must be on providing a positive experience
on EVERY interaction, whether it is face-to-face, click-to-click, or ear-to-ear.”
CX VIDEO CLIP OF THE WEEK
Check out this two-minute video on Help your Employees find their IKIGAI