There’s a perception among businesses that to be innovative, agile, creative, and market-leading they should aggressively recruit millennials and younger employees. Millennials are believed to be tech-savvy and “tapped in” to what the modern consumer wants, which in turn means that they are the ones to drive trends and find “the next big thing.”
That perception is making it difficult for older generations to find work. Research shows that close to half of all baby boomers (47%) feel that they’ve been turned down from a job because of their age. A further 36 percent didn’t even apply for a job, assuming that their age would be an inhibitor to getting the job.
That perception of age discrimination against older people finding work is not baseless. Unemployment among those 65 and older who are not retired has jumped 28 percent at a time where joblessness is falling across the overall population.
As National Seniors Chief Advocate Ian Henshke says, “Without a doubt, there is prejudice facing older Australians as they seek to get a job. People find if they don’t put their age on an application, they can get an interview but if they do they miss out.” This is despite seniors living longer and wanting to work longer.
The perception many employers have is that hiring someone aged 55 and older is a temporary hire and therefore a burden on the organization to train and integrate them into the business. The reality is that seniors are likely to stay working well into their 60s and beyond, and will likely outlast the younger generations who are increasingly willing to move jobs rapidly.
As Professor Carol Kulik from the Centre for Workplace Excellence at the University of South Australia notes, “Older workers actually are more loyal to organizations than younger workers are. They tend to stay with employers for a long time and they don’t take very many sick days.”
So while the perception remains that older workers are a bad investment by businesses, as people live longer, they’re going to want to contribute deep into what was once seen as the retirement years.
Actually, seniors bring innovation
Research also shows it’s actually the older generations that tend to be the innovative ones.
It’s true that the younger generation outpaces baby boomers in terms of their technical skillset (26.9 percent, to 9.8 percent, in terms of their “strongest skill”). However, baby boomers have the edge in every other field: they’re more innovative and better with problem-solving (22.5 percent to 19.9 percent), they’re better in terms of people skills (29.9 percent to 23.9 percent), and they’re far more capable in collaboration and teamwork (25.9 percent to 16.9 percent).
What these data show is that baby boomers offer experience and expertise to an organization. While the younger generations tend to be technically skilled and highly capable, their lack of experience makes them impetuous and can result in resistance to alternative ideas or a lack of team spirit.
Drawing on their history of working in organizations and teams, baby boomers have a greater capacity to listen to alternative ideas, and the experience to recognize a good idea when it’s presented.