At a time when high unemployment numbers constantly make the headlines, companies can be selective about whom they want to hire. Older workers generally don't make the top of lists of potential job candidates for a variety of reasons, some real and some imagined. But with 10,000 baby boomers reaching the age of 65 each day for the next twenty years, hiring companies would do well to re-evaluate this untapped pool of labor, especially once our economy finally gets back on track.
According to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, people over the age of 40 are protected against being treated less favorably because of age. As these older workers become a bigger part of the workforce, hiring companies will need to objectively consider the positive and negative aspects of each candidate regardless of age. The good news is that, in many ways, older workers are better workers. Here's why older workers make excellent employees:
More direction. Many young people are still struggling to figure out what they want to do for their career and are getting their first exposure to the corporate world. Older workers generally possess a wealth of knowledge and experience gleaned over years of employment, and have a good idea of how to get the job done.
Less turnover. Older workers are less likely to job hop than younger employees. They typically have lower turnover and are absent less.
Experience pays off. Many older workers are experienced at the requirements of the job, and know what works and what does not work. This could allow them to get the job done more efficiently or to produce higher quality results. Contrary to popular belief, older employees do not cost employers more than younger workers, according to Peter Cappelli, coauthor of Managing the Older Worker: How to Prepare for the New Organizational Order. Higher wages are not based on age, but on experience, which often benefits the employer to the point that it is worth paying them at a higher level.
Understand the culture. Older employees know and live the corporate culture because they have been immersed in it for years. You won't find very many of them ignoring the dress code or posting inappropriate messages on Facebook.
Fewer dependents. When it comes to health care coverage, older employees do cost more because they are more likely to have health conditions and seek care. But older employees often no longer have as many dependents to include in the health plan as people with young families, which can actually save the company money.
Of course, older workers may need to be accommodated in some ways, especially if the job is physically strenuous. Older employees will be increasingly reporting to younger supervisors, which could cause friction that will need to be addressed. Flexible schedules may also be important to some seniors who want to pursue other interests outside a full-time job.
Dave Bernard is not yet retired but has begun his due diligence to plan for a satisfying retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only the Beginning.