(BPT) – By Gary A. Officer, President and CEO of the Center for Workforce Inclusion
When you think of new hires, who do you picture? While you may expect applicants to be 20-somethings straight out of college or 30- to 40-somethings making a career change, in reality, you’ll likely see more applicants who are older adults. According to a report by the U.S. Special Committee on Aging, workers 55 and older will soon represent 25% of our nation’s workforce.
However, just because more older adults are applying for jobs doesn’t mean they are getting hired. Many older applicants face ageism during the hiring process. A survey by AARP found that it took older workers who were displaced during the Great Recession twice as long to find a new job than younger workers. The association also found that only 4% of firms have committed to programs that help integrate older workers into their talent pool.
Businesses that ignore this fast-growing workforce segment need to rethink their hiring process. With record-low unemployment numbers, many job openings across industries still need to be filled. But there is a mostly overlooked talent pool readily available – older Americans. Now more than ever, businesses must recognize that older workers bring much-needed experience, emotional intelligence and generational diversity to our workplaces.
Not convinced? Here are five key values older workers offer employers.
1. Problem-Solving abilities
Problem-solving is a critical skill that is attained over time. Through their lived experience in the workforce, older workers have accumulated a wealth of industry-specific knowledge that they can use to make informed decisions that help your business thrive. More importantly, they can impart this knowledge to younger colleagues, providing mentorship opportunities that benefit the mentors, mentees and the business as a whole.
The result is a more innovative team. A 2018 study by Cloverpop found that multigenerational teams with an age range of 25 years or more (from the youngest member to the oldest member) met or exceeded expectations 73% of the time, while those with a narrow range of less than 10 years did so only 35% of the time.
Older workers are incredibly reliable. This usually means that they are known for punctuality and dependability. You can count on them to show up on time to meetings, meet strict deadlines and provide a consistency that may be missing from your workplace. Best of all, they set a positive example for the rest of the company.
3. Improved team productivity
It’s been reported that seven out of 10 workers in the United States enjoy working with people from other generations. Older workers appreciate the creativity of younger workers and younger workers appreciate the value of older workers’ experience and wisdom (AARP).
These benefits extend beyond workplace satisfaction, too. Significant profitability and performance gains have been reported for companies that have above-average diversity. For example, according to an AARP report, companies with above-average diversity in age, gender, nationality, career path, industry background and education on their management teams report innovation revenue that is 19% higher and profit margins that are 9% higher than companies with below-average diversity.
Older adults have seen technology rapidly change throughout their lifetime. Contrary to popular belief, older workers are adaptable and willing to learn and master new skills and technologies.
The fact is that they’ve had to adapt quickly to keep pace with the increasingly connected and technology-forward world. These experiences have taught them to effectively navigate change, a valuable asset for businesses across many industries.
5. Low turnover
Hiring and training new employees can cost a company extensive time, money and resources. To reduce turnovers and increase employee retention, businesses should look to hire older workers.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that older workers ages 55-64 have a higher employee tenure rate than their younger colleagues. They typically stay with a company for nearly 10 years, more than three times the rate of workers ages 25-34.
So, while the assumption might be that an older applicant is ready to retire – that is likely not the case. Many older Americans are delaying retirement, unretiring or simply unable to retire and are prepared to stay on board for many years to come.
Age is a value-add, not a detriment
While working for the Center for Workforce Inclusion, I’ve seen firsthand the benefits of hiring older employees. Embracing age diversity in your workforce can only help to improve your company’s overall performance and workplace culture.
We often partner with businesses to help them tap into the talent pool of older workers to achieve successful business outcomes. We also work directly with older job seekers to overcome barriers to employment, develop in-demand skills and secure employment. To learn more about our work and how we can help, visit CenterForWorkforceInclusion.org.