Like a fine wine

A confluence of phenomena are coming together that will impact your hiring decisions.

I’m sure you are aware of these realities:

  • In the past century we gained an average of five years of longevity.
  • Retirement is being redefined, and older workers want to continue to work in some fashion.
  • Many boomers operate on a spend-now-save-later mentality and may need to work longer in order to ensure a secure retirement.
  • The retirement income system is contracting and will provide less in the future.

And, once our organizations are thriving again after the recent recession, we’ll have a labor shortage as boomers retire. Retirement-age employees are often able and willing to make up for that shortage.

Productivity may well be reduced with age (or in many cases not). At the same time, older workers add other significant positive factors to an organization. Of course, they have a treasure trove of experience and honed skills and are great mentors for younger employees in the organization. They usually are connected to the history – the so important “story” – of your business and can keep it alive.

Older employees often are eager to learn new jobs. They want to stay with the organization and would like to shift into new job descriptions – encore careers, if you will. Similar to soloists’ encores after a classical concert, encore careers may be less high-powered, less stressful and in a new, lighter vein. They offer and want flexibility, usually favoring a part-time relationship with the organization.

If you fear that you can’t afford to keep older employees because seniority means they are among your highest paid associates, please have a “fierce” conversation before you let them go. You will often find them happy to transition into a different and part-time job. Studies indicate that people who work are healthier. They may want to keep that edge. Perhaps they have spouses still in the workforce and want to work a while longer so they can retire together. Furthermore, most of us find we need to work two to four years longer in order to achieve a reasonable level of security.

A recent essay in The Economist, titled, “Hiring Grandpa,” supports raising the retirement age in order to counteract a shrinking labor force, since economic growth is a function of the size of the workforce. In America, the age to claim Social Security benefits was raised to 66 and is due to continually go up.

All of these trends support the case for retaining, retraining and recruiting those in their 60s and beyond.

Still, many in the army of the unemployed have told me, “No one wants to even interview you if you’re over 50.” Employers ask me why they should keep older, expensive employees when they’ve got 40-year-olds lined up for a chance to join their organizations.

Research is answering those questions. Furthermore, we know if there is one thing we can depend on, it’s change. The current job market will change. Employers will become more and more aware of the potential of older workers. The definition of “retirement” will continue to change.

The Economist issue I mentioned before opened with this paragraph:

“When Winston Churchill reached the age of 65, his career was still regarded as a bit of a failure. Had he retired then, he would never become prime minister, made the speeches for which he has become famous or topped polls of the greatest Britons ever.”

For many of us, the decades after age 65 may include our “finest hours.”

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