Most successful companies today are looking for a highly trained and skilled workforce that can deliver more or less. By being “lean”, companies can create competitive advantages that boost profits, increase market share, and keep both customers and shareholders happy.
To do this, many cutting edge companies focus on hiring the best and brightest, recruiting only the most intelligent and polished graduates from the nation’s colleges and universities or stealing the best young workers from their competitors.
This can lead to a workforce that is smart, but it doesn’t necessary bring the experience level that is just as important.
The Value of Older Workers
Many corporate executives fail to appreciate and understand the value of older workers. Many even seek to weed out the most veteran employees in order to bring down the median age of their workforce. After all, the younger a company is, the smarter and more competitive it will be, right?
Companies that value the benefits older workers bring to the table and develop and launch programs and policies that target their specific needs and interests often can receive a significant economic advantage over their competitors.
Biggest Sector of Workers
Older workers represent the biggest group of people currently employed in the US.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, an estimated 31.5 million workers currently employed are older than 55.
So what are all these older workers doing? According to a report issued by the Society for Human Resource Management, most of these older employees currently are in positions of leadership or management.
So companies that strategize to remove older workers from their payrolls may actually be setting themselves up for failure because such a move could lead to a future leadership vacuum. In order to succeed, businesses need the kind of knowledge and experience veteran employees bring to the table. Without these things, younger, less experienced leaders won’t know how to effectively manage through a crisis when they happen.
Older managers, however, have already been there and done that. So they are more likely to be able to guide the company through troubled waters.
Losing a Generation of Experience Workers
Now that the Baby Boomer generation is aging and many older workers are preparing for retirement, there could be a shortage of skilled experienced workers in the near future.
In the tech industry, for example, an estimated 50% or more current workers are expected to retire within the next five to ten years. That’s an enormous hole to fill, especially when you consider that the new people taking over those jobs will be less experienced and may have a younger, less urgent work ethic.
Some industries already are feeling the effects of this trend. Some telecom companies, for example, have had to pay retired workers hefty bonuses in order to lure them out of retirement to help as contractors or teachers, educating the newest generation of workers on how to operate legacy equipment.
Let’s Talk about Work Ethic
And then there’s the work ethic of younger workers. Everyone is talking about how Millennials have a false sense of unearned entitlement. A generation of children who have been pampered by “helicopter parents” are now finally arriving in the workforce … and the consequences are often devastating for some companies.
Younger people demand higher wages but want to work fewer hours. They bristle at the idea of having to travel to the office each day and would prefer to work out of their own home or perhaps the local Starbucks.
Contrast this with the generation of older workers who are preparing for retirement. Mature workers bring a different approach to their jobs. They are accustomed to taking their jobs seriously and feeling a type of responsibility and loyalty to their employers that many younger workers lack.
Plus, older workers don’t have the same type of financial commitments that younger workers have. Rather than having student loans or hefty mortgages to pay off, their kids often have already graduated and their houses and cars are paid off. So they may not need to earn as much.
What Older Workers Want
For older workers, job satisfaction therefore often has less to do with compensation and more to do with feeling as if what they are doing is meaningful. When veteran employees believe they are contributing to the overall success of the company, they often report higher job satisfaction.
Many older workers also enjoy the social relationships they have at work. Going to the job means seeing the people they like and admire, which also makes them more productive and well-adjusted.
Companies that recognize the value of older workers and who take steps to both retain and engage these veteran employees who have the knowledge and experience businesses need will have a competitive advantage.