Why we should rethink the value of older workers
value of older workers

Why we should rethink the value of older workers

Gender bias, racial bias, and cultural bias are hot topics in the workplace. They each carry their own set of important reasons. Prejudice against older workers, however, is often not given the same level of coverage it deserves.

12 August 2020

It’s worth addressing because there has long been a shortage of high-skilled talent in Switzerland. Actively targeting older workers could, therefore, increase the talent pool Swiss companies can hire from.

Many Swiss companies are beginning to realise this benefit and some are even introducing recruitment policies that specifically target older workers. For instance, return-to-industry and return-to-career programmes are becoming more commonplace. Economically, it’s prudent because Switzerland’s workforce is after all ageing.

Older workers actually want to continue working

Many older workers want to continue working. It’s not difficult to understand why. Advances in healthcare have meant older workers remain fit and healthy into old age. They are often at the peak of their careers at the time they reach retirement and don’t want to stop. If this is the case, then their skills and experience could bring tremendous value for the companies they work for.

An older workers’ age should really be immaterial when set against their experience. No amount of training can replace the decades of experience and wisdom that they’ve acquired. They can increase the company's productivity and are well worth the salaries they earn.

It can also help create a more balanced workforce

They don’t just add diversity to the workforce, but they can also bring balance. Often, they play a pivotal role in training younger employees. They can even become their mentors.

Younger employees are often ambitious, full of energy and possess a strong willingness to learn. Combining them with older workers could bring out the best in them. Therefore, a healthy mix of talented workers of all ages could be hugely beneficial for a company. In fact, in a recent post-generational survey conducted by Deloitte, 70% of companies stated that having a multigenerational workforce is essential to achieving success over the next 12 to 18 months.

The other benefit is to do with their psychology. Decades of being in the workforce can help build a certain resilience to the challenges and stresses of work. Demonstrating this strength to younger workers can provide a significant moral boost to a company’s workforce. Older workers, therefore, don’t just add to the diversity of a company – they add balance

Change is needed!

Our career systems and recruitment processes are not designed for hiring older workers. There are also many misconceptions. For instance, there is a belief that older workers are expensive and can be replaced by a younger workforce that can do the job just as well.

Scientifically, however, this is proven to be untrue. Although mental horsepower declines after the age of 30, the same isn't true for knowledge and expertise. These skills keep on increasing beyond the age of 80 and are considered the main predictors of job performance. Moreover, traits like drive and curiosity stay with us forever and can lead to new skills being learnt even in old age. When it comes to learning new things, there simply are no age limits.

What can companies do to attract older workers?

Employer branding is crucial for attracting older candidates. Offering titles and roles where older workers can clearly see how they can contribute their expertise, will make older workers feel valued. Another important factor is to make the job feel more accessible. This might require more flexible working arrangements for instance.

Remuneration should also not be based upon tenure, which is not a useful measure of pay unless it translates directly into the skills and experiences that an employee has to offer. It is also fine for older workers to earn less money than younger workers if they're new to a job. In fact, this is fair.

Older work can create a happier place to work

The psychological effect older workers bring into a company shouldn’t be underestimated. They can create a greater sense of safety, which comes with the sense of security and wisdom that older workers bring into the workplace.

Surely this is the type of workplace companies would want to create? We are facing a period of great economic uncertainty. So, perhaps it’s time we rethink the value of older workers.

Luca Semeraro

Head of Badenoch & Clark
Zurich, Switzerland

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