It’s crunch time. With vacancies at their highest in over a decade and employment at a record high, employers have to make a choice. We can either continue focusing the bulk of our energy towards hiring younger and middle aged candidates, or we can evolve and start hiring older workers. By widening the net, employers open the door to a wealth of skills, talent, experience and all the benefits of a multigenerational workforce, including a better bottom line.
Every UK employer should increase its number of 50-69 year old workers by 12% by 2022, says CEO of Aviva UK Life and government-appointed Business Champion for Older Workers, Andy Briggs. Otherwise, employers will struggle to fill the increasing skills gap between jobs created and younger workers entering the UK workforce.
But … aren’t older candidates more of a health risk? Less tech-savvy? Harder to train? If anything, silver cruisers are often more motivated and eager to learn than the younger generation.
“I’d recommend hiring older workers to everyone” says Prime Appointments MD Robyn Holmes, in our recent interview with BBC Essex on the topic. “We’ve always found senior employees to be just as, if not more motivated and willing to learn as the young ones.” With Barclay’s over-50s-friendly “Welcome Back” apprenticeship scheme taking off, it appears we’re not the only ones to have cottoned on to the benefits of hiring older workers!
But it’s not just about filling vacancies. On the contrary, senior employees bring a unique contribution to the workforce. Here are our 5 reasons to start hiring older workers:
1. Increase your chances of hiring the best candidate!
It goes without saying that when hiring, the number one priority is to find the best candidate, regardless of age or any other protected characteristic, such as race, gender or religion. Taking concrete steps to tackle unconscious bias is a great way to ensure the strongest possible candidate is chosen for any given role. The Civil Service is one example of an employer that has taken concrete steps towards doing this, aiming to become “the most inclusive employer by 2020”. To achieve this, they’ve rolled out initiatives such as unconscious bias training, name-blind selection and upping their use of diverse panels. In a job market where candidates are becoming harder and harder to find, inclusion will be the key to sourcing the most valuable talent available.
2. Experience, experience, experience
There are some things that only experience can teach. As American author Mark Twain said: “Good judgement is the result of experience and experience the result of bad judgement.” Older workers will have made their mistakes, overcome obstacles, and come out stronger for it. They’ve had the time to figure out how they work best, and what they need in order to be productive. The chances are they have also acquired a sound base of industry knowledge over the years. Overall, they will have seen more changes in the job market, the industry landscape, and even the world, over the course of their career than the majority of younger candidates.
3. Cash in on their contacts
When it comes to getting a head start on a new opportunity or closing a deal, often the old saying holds true: “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” A strong network, or “relationship capital” is invaluable for growing your company’s influence, generating new business and building a reputation in your local community. Older workers have often had many years to network in their field and build up a strong network of contacts. They may be able to introduce you to influential people in your sector, or help build bridges with key competitors. Alternatively, they may well simply know your target market better. Whatever the shape of their network, it which can bring immense value to your business.
4. They’ll make great mentors
With their wealth of industry and life experience, older workers can make great mentors, whether they’re in a management role, or a more junior position. The U.S. military has long managed their multi-generational workforce this way, encouraging junior officers to treat their older sergeants as partners, behind the scenes. This allows younger supervisors to gain the benefits of the older sergeant’s experience, while still taking the lead. Having good mentors in place is great for keeping employees engaged and can improve employee retention, which is why 71% of Fortune 500 companies already have mentoring programs in place.
5. They combine the benefits of younger workers, without the high turnover
Like millennials, older employees highly value having a job that gives them meaningful work and social interaction. With the bulk of their financial commitments behind them, senior employees are choosing to work because they want to, not just because they have to. They’re more engaged than younger employees, which directly translates to a better bottom line.
Their social drive also means they’ll be great in customer-facing roles, as the Harvard Business Review pointed out in a 2014 report. All in all, they combine many of the benefits of a younger workforce. However, whereas young people are more likely to job-hop, older workers tend to stay where they are. A recent study from the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics even found that the length of time a worker remains with an employer increases with the age at which the worker begins the job. As a result, employers don’t have to waste valuable company profits finding a replacement.
When we take into account all the benefits hiring older workers of hiring older workers, it seems odd that more employers haven’t started doing so already. Of course, change doesn’t happen overnight. For a long time, seniors have been viewed as less valuable than younger employees and it will take time to challenge this perception. However, what we do know is that the first pioneers to start doing this will reap huge benefits to their employee engagement, their social network and, ultimately, their bottom line.