By SU-ANN CHIEN
When you’re 22, the world is your oyster. The job market is prime territory for energetic, impressionable young adults with impressive resumes, desirable to all organisations and industries.
The opportunities are endless and the invitations are convivial. But it seems to be that the welcome mat grows shorter as the years go by. At your 40s, the invitations suddenly become limited.
For current Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers, the decision to switch jobs or companies becomes riskier as recruiters are not as enthusiastic to accept older individuals.
The truth is that there is much apprehension amongst those who are not considered the typical employable age, and that apprehension is also present within those looking to recruit.
But instead of subscribing to the stereotype that older workers are inflexible, outdated and due for cold storage, let’s examine the strengths of the 40 and above and the value that they can bring to organisations.
The greatest advantage of recruiting an older worker is that the risk of a bad hire is reduced. When hiring new employees, there is always the concern that the individual does not meet the expectations set. That anxiety can increase when the employee is young, naive and has yet to understand the culture switch.
Given that the older employee has been in the job market for a longer period of time, his/her work output has a greater chance of having more credibility and quality.
An understanding of corporate culture is not something that can be taught, but rather caught through experience. For older workers to sustain in the economy, they must also possess good work ethics and a number of transferable skills.
Fortunately, older workers have passed the loyalty and commitment test. According to the Business Insider, “the length of time a worker remains with the same employer increases with the age at which the worker began the job”. The tenure with current employers for workers aged 45 to 54 is an average of 7.6 years.
It can be especially frustrating when organisations invest time, energy and resources in screening and training employees only to find that they leave for “greener pastures”.
Older workers have less of a flight risk because they understand that attractions such as a higher pay, a more senior title or other aspects that young employees chase after may not provide as much qualitative benefits as loyalty does, resulting in better work retention.
Older workers are less likely to jump ship because they recognise the value of staying put. Organisations tend to offer more rewards to loyal employees in the long run, such as better working hours, flexible working conditions, lucrative opportunities for advancement and even retirement schemes.
For example, Harrods (the famed British department store) offers discount benefits of up to 50% for its employees. For some, the relationship with the company is far beyond that of the conventional employer-employee, hence the reason for loyalty.
The focus is not so much for self-advancement or personal trajectory, but rather the more mature worker is able to understand how his/her contributions play a role in the larger picture.
This could be attributed to the fact that as we grow older, we begin to be responsible for other dependents (such as when starting a family or taking care of elderly parents), hence their efforts now shift away from self to others.
In addition, mature workers are also less fickle in their commitments because they recognise their personal aims in the short and long run. Younger employees, though ambitious, may have yet to form a clear picture of life goals and thus are more inclined to see the benefits in short-term rewards.
Meanwhile, those a little more seasoned in their careers will understand that employment is the instrument in achieving life goals, hence possess a more balanced perspective of work and life. Though still ambitious, their aspirations are now more guided and less reckless.
The Maturity Factor
The results of the study indicate that its respondents were three times more likely to hire a mature worker (50 years and above), with reasons being that these mature workers were more reliable, more professional and had better writing skills.
One study is not the end all for your recruiting decisions, nevertheless the study shows that older workers are not headed for cold storage and redundancy in the workplace.
In fact, they are able to contribute maturity to the office. During moments of crisis, they can hold the fort due to their vast experience.
Without making a blanket statement, mature workers are more adapted to remain calm under pressure because of the years already accumulated in their career belts. They can better ascertain what is important in precarious conditions.
No matter how talented and energetic the young new hire may be, skill does not substitute experience. Older workers are better equipped at problem-solving and decision-making in the workplace due to their extensive history, as young employees only have internships to simulate a working environment.
Embracing Older Workers
There are several actions that can be taken to further accommodate and motivate mature workers in your workplace. For instance, allowing flexible work hours enables more time for those with families and dependents to spend with their loved ones.
However, one must accept the fact that the cost of hiring a mature worker may be higher due to remuneration or health expenses. Nevertheless, the tradeoff would seem fair in view of their quality input.
The point is not to classify workers or potential employees based on age or background; instead opportunities should be given based on merit and the quality of a person’s work.
The young and the older should not view each other as competition, but instead, move towards sharing strengths and talents for the benefit of all.
Originally posted online on 14 October, 2013.