The benefits of recruiting older workers

When it comes to recruitment, the best companies know it’s not about age.

What they want is talented people.

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How old is ‘older’?

Many businesses seem to take over 40 as the start of the ageing workforce, with some offering mid-life MOTs at this age.

The 40 and over definition seems to have travelled over from the United States, where The Age Discrimination in Employment Act 1967 states the ageing workforce is anyone aged 40 or older.

However, there is not a ‘written in stone’ rule which outlines at which point someone becomes an older worker – especially here in the UK.

An article in the House of Lords Library, published in February 2022, produced similar findings.

It said while there is “no formal definition of an ‘older worker’, it is commonly used to refer to workers aged 50 years and over”.

A Reed Talent Solutions survey of 1,000 employees over 40 years of age found 41% of those questioned categorised the ageing workforce as being ‘over 60’.

Director of Wellbeing and Client Relationships at Next Steps Consulting Limited, Gemma Carter-Morris, said it is hard to put on a number on what constitutes an older worker.

She acknowledged that over 40 is often seen as the official definition but said: “People have such different outcomes and experiences.

“One 40-year-old - or one 60-year-old - is very different to another. I wouldn’t like to put a number on it.”

What are the benefits of employing older workers?

When it comes to recruitment, the best companies know it’s not about age. What they want is talented people.

With the job market tighter than ever, employers need to keep their eyes open to the possibilities of employing older workers with all the experience and know-how they hold.

Experience can give someone an edge and it’s not the only benefit of employing older workers:

  • Loyalty

Older workers are generally more settled and less likely to up sticks at the first sign of a new opportunity. Companies that employ older workers will therefore benefit financially as it would cost more to bring in new staff than it does to develop existing employees.

  • Decision-making

Companies that employ older workers will see the obvious benefit of their experience and existing skills.

Experienced workers can hit the ground running and have previously honed their critical-thinking skills so they can make good decisions quickly without constant monitoring.

  • Confidence

One of the benefits of employing older workers is that they can often be more self-assured than their younger counterparts – after all, they’ve seen and done it all before.

The best employees will bring a mixture of confidence and expertise, something that can come with age.

  • Attitude

Older workers are often proactive, positive, and practical. They have major life experiences – whether bringing up children, buying a house, or overcoming financial challenges – behind them, and have learnt from those pressures.

Furthermore, with such experiences out of the way they have more time and focus for work. Companies that employ older workers will find those in the ageing workforce will often love their work with a focus that wasn’t possible at a younger age.

  • Cognitive capacity

Companies that provide jobs for older workers will find they have a range of required mental abilities that are already baked in, such as management skills, leadership skills, communication skills and empathy.

  • Collaboration

Experienced workers value teamwork and it is often true to say that by the latter stages of their careers their ‘ego days’ are behind them, meaning they are more than willing to listen to other people’s views.

  • Leadership

Another of the benefits of employing older workers is their longevity means they generally have better communications skills, and this often translates into leadership skills.

Communication wasn’t ruled by email, text or social media as they developed throughout their working lives, meaning they often have sharp communication and people skills that younger counterparts may lack.

  • Productivity

Age diversity is known to improve organisational performance, to the benefit of companies that employ older workers as well as younger ones.

Productivity is often higher in businesses with mixed-age work teams.

  • Mentorship

Older workers play a huge role in providing skills and knowledge to younger people in the workplace.

One other benefit is that the learning goes both ways, with each generation teaching the other new skills.

Are there any drawbacks?

Perhaps the major disadvantage of employing older workers is that they can suffer from more medical conditions than their younger counterparts.

This can result in increased sick days or adaptions having to be made in the workplace to accommodate decreased mobility or physical disability.

Older workers might want or need more flexible schedules or to work reduced hours or days.

There is often a perception that older workers lack technological skills, but today’s ageing workforce is often well versed on this field.

Former Head of Talent Attraction and Engagement at NatWest, Declan Slattery, said: “To me it is all about perception.

“When we look at people in their 40s, 50s, 60s now, if you look back over the last 20, 30, 40 years that’s a generation that have gone through incredible social and economic change, and incredible exposure to technology.

“I’m not a great believer in this myth around technology. Most people will have had a home computer for 25 or 30 years which they would have got when they were 30 and by now they’re 60.”

It is hard for anyone to keep up with the constant technological changes society has experienced in recent years. This means older workers, and other workers for that matter, may require retraining.

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