More Americans are working longer, and they’re not afraid to take on new challenges.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 40% of people age 55 and older are actively looking for work–because they don’t want to retire or can’t afford to stop working. This demographic, experienced individuals with an eagerness to work, can be a viable source of job candidates and a solution to your workforce shortage. HR should understand who these workers are and how they might be assets for your organization.
Whether older job candidates can’t or don’t want to retire, what is their value to your organization? According to survey and research data, it’s substantial:
1. They are focused on stability. These workers aren’t consumed or preoccupied with climbing the ladder or advancing. As a rule, they are most interested in being useful and making a difference. Work is about human interaction and contributing for them, and older workers tend to be more empathetic and better communicators.
2. They have knowledge and experience. They have information, expertise, and observations to impart that can be of great value for younger workers. For example, they know the history and evolution of regulations, processes, and more.
3. They are flexible. Older workers often don’t need or want 9 to 5 work. They often enjoy the freedom of unconventional job situations and part-time work.
4. They can save you money. Providing health care isn’t an issue with part-time or retirement age workers (who get Medicare), and older workers don’t necessarily expect high salaries and a full suite of benefits. Contrary to what some employers believe, there is no evidence that older workers actually cost more.
5. They have staying power. Research shows that older workers are loyal and more likely to stay in a job once they start it.
While some older workers may need accommodations such as less physically taxing work and less heavy lifting, don’t assume they aren’t willing to learn new skills and abilities. Studies show that the human brain—at any age—has an amazing ability to learn and master new skills.
For younger supervisors who are unsure about how to manage older workers, HR needs to help them overcome concerns and misperceptions. A few suggestions for managers overseeing older workers:
· Take opportunities to learn from them and take advantage of their knowledge and experience.
· Don’t shy away from expecting these workers to change and grow, but—as with any employees—respect their limitations and consider their strengths and talents.
· Communicate frequently and honestly. Be open about expectations and recognize accomplishments. Encourage older workers to seek additional training that they need or want without fear of being looked down on or judged.