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Why Smart Managers Hire Experience

By Mary Lloyd

Hiring experience just might be the best "secret weapon" a company can have. Experienced workers are a better value in at least six different ways.

Experience is a plus. That seems to have gotten lost in the need to deal with a lot of job applicants in a hurry. Instead of digging deeper to see what the long term potential of seasoned job seekers might be, we rule them out without even looking at their resumes. This is understandable in terms of the workload involved in a hiring decision these days. It's also unthinkable in terms of what you are letting slip through your fingers.

We assume those workers will bolt at the first chance, but how do you know that? We assume they will be dissatisfied or that they can't learn the software package your company uses. None of those assumptions is true for everyone, and most of them are false for most. Older workers have a lot more to offer than current business practice recognizes.

Older workers have better work habits. In research done by Development Dimensions International workers 56+ were assessed by their managers as having significantly better work habits on all six of the dimensions measured when compared to workers younger than 26. The 56+ workers were also deemed to have better work habits than those aged 26 to 45 on five of the six measures and on four of the six measures when compared to the 46-55 age group. Older workers are more reliable, punctual, aware of safety, better at avoiding disciplinary actions and have better attendance. They also have better work standards.

Older workers do better at building customer rapport. Not every customer is in their 20's and some of what's totally acceptable for that population is downright irritating for the rest of us. Since text messaging is the communication channel of choice for this generation of new hires, their skill at face to face communication is not as well developed. Those who have experience can diffuse a difficult customer or spot a problem with an order more readily.

Experienced workers make fewer mistakes. The old adage that you avoid mistakes by having good judgment and you acquire good judgment by making mistakes is valid. Experienced workers have already made their learning mistakes with someone else. When you put them on your payroll, you get someone who can hit the ground running. Even if they need to learn a whole new area of expertise, the wisdom they've already acquired about doing business is likely to help you avoid the costly "training errors" that are part of getting inexperienced new hires up to speed.

Experienced workers are better problem solvers. Older workers are better able to understand the big picture because they have more life experience to draw from. They are more likely to be aware of unusual options that have worked before or to suggest an out-of-context tool for an innovative use because they know it exists from a previous job. The wisdom of years in the workforce can also help in assessing the consequences of possible solutions.

Experienced workers provide excellent modeling for new hires. Hiring people who are all the same age seems like a good idea because they are more likely to get along-or so we assume. Even if that's true, which it often isn't, the immaturity of the group can foster a work ethic that's far less effective than what you need. Hiring "old pros" who work alongside--or even mentor--the younger hires can help you build a dynamic work team more easily.

Yes, it's wise to hire wisdom. But there is one glitch in doing so. You need to be comfortable knowing less than some of the people who work for you. But think about it this way: You're okay when you need to talk to the legal department, the shipping department, or the accounting department. You need then to know stuff that you don't. Why miss out on getting great help that's available now because of the economy because that person knows stuff that you don't. Wise leaders hire those who can augment what they know.