Don’t Discard Older Workers Just Yet

TorfuttiMuch has been written and said about older workers and their role in today’s workforce. The “Great Recession” of 2008-2012 and other political and societal trends have led to a re-alignment and changed the perception and value of these workers. The smart organizations are the ones who realize how valuable these personal assets can be to their future growth and the contributions they will make to their future success; others have not and have paid dearly for well publicized missteps, lack of focus, blunders and PR nightmares.  I wanted to propose an idea for a great value proposition for organizations and discuss the importance of older workers to your team.

Older workers know how to approach challenges and opportunities, weigh the options and quickly choose the appropriate course of action or solution. Experienced workers also know how to think ahead, be prepared, set and focus on goals, lead productive meetings and achieve objectives, as my friend Diane Windingland wrote here.
“Time is money” has never been a more important phrase than today as organizations are operating with leaner headcounts, therefore they need employees who don’t waste time addressing and making decisions. So what do they do? More and more companies have made the decision to hire younger, inexperienced workers, believed to be cheaper, in an effort to pare down payroll. In the long run, these hiring choices are raising expenses for companies in the results of poor decisions and training and actually a better option exists. Organizations talk about “value proposition” – well here is one: you are able to hire older workers and get skilled employees, with experience, leadership and mentoring and many don’t demand high salaries. What a fantastic value proposition.

Teamwork and Culture
Experienced workers bring extensive collaborative and leadership skills to the workplace. The over-50 age group understands the give-and-take of teamwork and negotiation, how to process and accept the perspectives, insights and opinions of fellow associates and arrive at a productive and actionable consensus as a team. Older workers understand and actually develop and promote healthy corporate culture. Remember, these valued employees gained their experience in the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s so understand how to work hard and have a little fun as a team too. They understand change is good but realize that a healthy corporate culture is imperative to a productive workplace and that you cannot change the world today.

There is a mentality that older workers don’t understand technology and are not adept at using it. This misconception was born from the fact that older workers don’t see the need to use technology constantly but allow technology and new ways of communicating to be used alongside other time-honored methods as face-to-face verbal and non-verbal communication. The reality is that younger workers were not even born when electronic technology took off in the 80’s and 90’s. Many were in diapers while older workers were on the internet for work and play, joining groups and pioneering e-mail. Older workers have been sharing photos for decades, it just hasn’t been on Flickr and Instagram. Members of the “older generation” were the ones who invented mobile phones (1973) and developed cellular networks (mid-90’s) while teaching today’s younger workers how to walk and talk as new-borns. Just because “Mom and Dad” are not checking their phones every few minutes, immediately responding to unimportant texts, spending 2-4 hours a day on Facebook, Twitter or Tumbler and snapping photos of themselves several times a week does not mean they don’t understand the proper and productive use of technology.

Organizations, take a look at the unique qualities and skills that older workers bring to the modern workplace. Will you be the smart one that realize the great value proposition and opportunity they present and attract these leaders to your organization?

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