Baby Boomers form the largest trained pool of potential future employees ever available to American businesses.
Over the next decade, 43% of America’s workforce will reach age 65 and be eligible for retirement. Collectively, these men and women represent an enormous bank of intellectual and institutional knowledge, acquired during a half century of technological advancement. This group of workers is the most educated and technically proficient of any labor group ever available to American industry. If you’re in this elite group and are planning to remain on the job or are considering an encore career, there’s plenty of good news for you.
When it comes to the workplace, 60 is the new 40. Today, people can be productive far longer than they could be in earlier eras. In fact, many jobs require cognitive skills that actually improve with age, such as technical writing, human resources management, and communications. And while some companies searching for employees overlook their older or recently retired workers, in most cases their assumptions about senior workers are dead wrong. Let’s examine some common myths about older workers:
- Myth #1: Older employees and retirees aren’t interesting in working.
According to an American Association of Retired People (AARP) survey, more than two-thirds of older workers said they would like to work either full-time or part-time after age 65. And, research conducted by The Sloan Center at Boston College found that older workers are more, rather than less, engaged and satisfied with their jobs. Whether it’s because they need the income to maintain the retirement lifestyle they desire or because they miss the social interaction that work affords, many older people still seek employment opportunities.
- Myth #2: Older employees can’t handle the demands of a job.
While some jobs may be physically demanding, the majority of workplace tasks can be performed by an older worker. For example, outdoor retailer L.L. Bean recruits retired workers for seasonal jobs in their call centers, distribution facility, and flagship store. And in reality, according to research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, older employees frequently outperform their younger colleagues. They have less absenteeism, less turnover, and better communication skills.
- Myth #3: Older workers are too expensive to hire.
A retired worker returning to the workforce is often less expensive than their younger counterparts. Retirees are generally covered by Medicare and so they don’t require coverage in expensive company health insurance plans, which can add 25% or more to an employer’s cost. Older workers often prefer to work on a part-time basis rather than full-time. Most retired workers have also accumulated a variety of skills that are easily transferred to new jobs without costly training courses or extensive on-the-job instructions. And since they are recently retired, they’re likely to be comfortable with existing technology. In addition, older workers may be willing to take a little less to get the job they want or extra benefits they seek.
While the positive qualities attributed to older employees may vary, they can be generally captured into the following five categories:
1. Experience. Older employees have been there, done that. Their years in the workplace have given them an understanding of what is expected and how their work affects others. Their judgment, collected during a lifetime of mistakes and achievements, often leads to less costly, more streamlined, and better outcomes.
2. Perspective. As we age, our views about ourselves and the people around us change. Older workers are more confident in their expertise and subsequently bring stability to the workplace, often acting as role models and mentors to younger employees. The maturity and knowledge that comes from years of life and work enables older workers to make critical, often innovative decisions, considering factors that younger workers simply haven’t had the time to experience.
3. Adaptability. The Baby Boomer Generation of workers has experienced more change in the workplace than any previous generation before them. Markets and jobs have expanded globally, technology has transformed a mechanical workplace into an electronically-connected Internet, and social change has secured equality and participation in the workplace never before witnessed. Throughout their careers, older workers have seen unprecedented change in their professional and personal lives, accepted the new circumstances and requirements, and quickly and successfully adapted.
4. Responsibility. A survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management revealed that older workers exhibited a greater degree of professionalism and work ethic than younger workers. They are more willing to share their ideas with others, less hesitant to speak up when running into a problem, and they can be counted on in a crisis.
5. Commitment. Older employees understand the need for punctuality, regular attendance, and conformance with work rules and company guidelines. Some employers complain that their younger workers simply want to “put their time in” and leave, unlike older workers who are more willing to stay late and get the job done.
Nine million Americans over the age of 50 have opted to go back to work after retiring, and nearly half of today’s workers say they plan to join them. There’s tremendous seasoned talent out there that can deliver significant benefits to employers who understand and appreciate the value of older workers.