Heresy you say? As the publisher of the career site for the older workforce how can I make such a statement? Promoting the idea that “the older workforce is the most underutilized talent pool in the nation” does not correlate with this statement. Have I gone bonkers in this advanced age? Perhaps, but it is true.
Let me continue this distorted thought process. Employers should not hire younger or new grad workers. Ok, now that we’ve eliminated nearly two thirds of the country’s workforce just who should employers hire?
As my memory serves me (sometimes it doesn’t) two or three years ago BusinessWeek published an issue that focused on individuals working past the typical retirement age. Note, this was before the current economic/employment crisis, not the times we are in today with retirement a fading option for many. But I digress. The article presented a very positive view of those who choose to work beyond the typical (whatever that is) retirement age. A sub story in the publication presented a 92 year old woman that still worked a full day every day (isn’t this a good work ethic). Her boss was at loss for words when asked what he would do when this valuable employee retired.
How could anyone find fault with BusinessWeek for publishing this story? The real point that I’m leading to is the online comments following the print publication. I prefer to go from memory rather than research the article. The very first comment was from an individual who identified himself as one of the single letter generations. In his comment he took the publication to task for even suggesting that those of retirement (again what is that?) age should stay in their jobs. Why? Well by staying in the workforce they are denying the younger generation, of which he was part of, jobs that rightfully should belong to them. We could spend more words than I’m allowed discussing his position so I’ll just leave it there.
Another personal anecdotal story I often tell goes back to 1991. My son had just graduated from Tufts University with a degree in mechanical engineering. Like most in his class he had no job offers. Unfortunately, much like the situation today. About a month after graduation he called me from a career fair in Boston. Standing in line, waiting for an interview he was observing others also waiting. His conclusion as he explained it to me was “dad I’ll never get a job here everyone is your age”! Needless to say I fell to the floor in a fit of laughter.
You’ve certainly heard the lines, “you have too little experience for the job” or “you are too experienced for the job”.
There are 3 types of businesses: public corporations, private corporations and those smaller partnerships or single owner. Each of these is typically in the business to make a profit for their owners. Be it large corporations with millions of stock holders (owners), smaller companies, startups funded by venture capital or sole owners, all have a responsibility to make a profit. Yes this is intuitive or Business 101. The operative word to this point in my story is “profit”.
For most businesses their biggest cost is people. Therefore the success (profit) is tied to the people that are hired. So why would any company have a staffing strategy that didn’t follow this simple axiom. Well history shows us that this happens all the time. “Women need not apply” or “no blacks” or “I don’t agree with your sexual orientation”. So let me add to this “employers should not hire those over a certain (what) age”. But wait I thought businesses were motivated by profit?
You see where I’m going with this. Employers staffing based on age, gender, etc. are likely short sighted and compromising their competitive position. Job seekers, if you dwell on the issue of age discrimination (yes it’s there), then you, too, will be compromising your competitive position.
So what is the answer? I think as a refrain from an old (did I say old?) song “it’s blowing in the wind”. But if a company is true to its owners it will develop, execute and measure a strategy that doesn’t lose sight of a tremendous pool of experienced talent. But let’s not stop there. These elder statesmen/women can mentor, share or simply be observed in a multi-generational workforce that will, without question, enhance their competitive advantage.
Job seekers (I’m talking about the older ones) take note. Those enlightened employers need employees that can quickly translate their experience and knowledge to position the company for success. Even if all employers were enlightened to the value of multiple-generational staffing it is still a competitive world out here. Those that learn the rules of the game today will have the best opportunity for new employment. Let me also add that you need to be Positive and Bold.
Now you know why employers shouldn’t hire older workers necessarily. They should hire the best workers for the job.
Perhaps I asked more questions than providing answers. I’ll ask you to give us all some answers via your comments. Employer answers will be greatly appreciated.