The Surprising Benefits of Hiring Older Talent
June 22, 2021
By Lewis Lustman
Morgan Freeman didn’t become famous until he turned 50 and got a role in “Driving Miss Daisy.” He won an Oscar at age 68.
Legendary comedian and actor Rodney Dangerfield’s career took off when he appeared on the Ed Sullivan show at age 46.
George Takei, Sulu on the original Star Trek, became an internet hero to Millennials for his advocacy of tolerance and living fearlessly decades after his show ended.
Hitting your stride later in life isn’t just relegated to show biz. There’s quite a bit of seasoned talent out there that may deliver significant benefit to employers who understand and appreciate the value of older talent.
And there’s a lot of them out there interested in working for you. According to Inc Magazine, there are more than 76,000,000 Americans reaching the age of 60 and beyond, “and it seems they either can’t or don’t want to stop working.” That can be a very good thing for savvy hiring professionals. The article quotes Peter Cappelli, professor of management at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, who says, “If you look at data on older individuals’ job performance and abilities, they get mind-blowingly better with age (emphasis ours), especially in areas increasingly key to success, like interpersonal skills and teamwork. And older workers are flexible, which employers also say they want.”
An article in The Atlantic points out that employment in America of those aged 65 and older doubled between 1977 and 2007 and continues to climb. And the trend isn’t just in America: By 2050, it’s expected that the number of seniors will triple to 15 percent of the world’s population (1.5 billion).
Another factor in the growth of seniors in the workplace is the changing nature of work; today one can be productive far longer than in earlier eras. Sixty, perhaps, is the new 40. In fact some jobs require cognitive skills that actually improve with age. According to an extensive research paper entitled “Population Aging and Comparative Advantage,” these skills include technical writing, human resources management and numerous other disciplines.
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.
Also consider an older person who may have enough money to live comfortably may want to work. They’re just as eager to provide a contribution of value to an employer as they were when they were twenty.
Consider the numerous benefits an older employee may provide:
- They are a steady and reliable source of skilled labor.
- 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 may offer your younger employees valuable mentoring for free.
- 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.
- An older candidate will be appreciative for an offer of employment – they know they’re fortunate to be working at their age. Consider that loyalty is a very valuable and rare commodity today.
- Many veterans are in this age group, and hiring those who have served in the military may contribute to your company’s ethos and brand.
- An age-diverse workforce makes sense since older employees represent a large segment of the buying public. They may know that market better than the rest of your team.
- They already know what they’re good at.
It may be prudent to give due consideration to older talent applying for jobs with your organization. A few suggestions:
- Adopt mature-age practices
- Reduce fears of negative managerial attitudes, discrimination and stereotypes
- Focus on their work
- Offer challenging, meaningful work for a sense of contribution and value
- Reverse mentor
- Bring different ages together to cooperate and bring varied perspectives
- Consider phase-out into retirement
Everybody wants to feel they can make a contribution of value, be involved, and earn respect, even older workers. Consider the opportunities that await them and your organization when you give them that chance.Return to Insights