People Are Living & Working Longer.
People are living longer lives than ever before, and are in good mental and physical health deep into their senior years. This is leading many people to continue working much longer than in generations past. In fact, studies show that the number of people over 70 years old that are still in the workforce has doubled in the last decade. This is an opportunity for many businesses to leverage the skills and experience of senior staff, and yet many organizations seem to be unaware of just how deep the benefits of hiring seniors are.
One of the reasons that so many seniors are looking to continue work is undeniably the economy – rates of poverty among seniors is also on the rise. But there’s more to it than that. Working can be good for your health. As noted by the NY Times: “Work offers a routine and purpose, a reason for getting up in the morning. The workplace is a social environment, a community. Depending on your occupation, doing your job involves engaging with cubicle mates, bosses, subordinates, union brothers and sisters, suppliers, vendors, and customers. The incentive for workers to invest in their health while employed is strong.”
In other words, work helps keep people sharp, focused, and creative. Many look forward to retirement, but after the initial “honeymoon” period where it feels like a holiday, retirement can become a dull and aimless grind. For this reason, many people who do retire then find themselves looking for new work – often in a part-time or consultative capacity, but many also want to go back to nearly full-time work.
Seniors and Ageism
The problem that many seniors face is that it can be hard to find work. Sadly, while there has been a 39% jump in the number of seniors looking for work, there has been a much smaller increase (11%) of people who have been able to find a position.
Part of the problem, seniors believe, is that they’re actively discriminated against in their job searching. Research shows that almost half (47%) of baby boomers feel that they’ve been turned down for a job because of their age. The fear of being turned down has meant that more than a third (36%) of baby boomers have decided to not apply for a job at all.
It’s not hard to understand why this discrimination exists, and it’s because of two particular perceptions: firstly, organizations are concerned that hiring a senior is hiring for the short term – it won’t be too many years before they scale back their work or retire completely. Secondly, it’s the perception that seniors are not tech-savvy, and therefore not innovative enough to be able to participate in the fast-moving, innovation-focused modern business environment.
Data Busts Perceptions About Hiring Seniors
Both perceptions are unsupported by the data. Organizations that are concerned about the cost of employee turnover should be looking at baby boomers, because baby boomers change jobs far less frequently than Gen Y’s – half as frequently, on average. A baby boomer is only 24% likely to leave their job in the next year. By contrast, there’s almost a 50 percent chance (47 percent) that the Gen Y employee is on their way out.
Meanwhile, baby boomers also tend to be more innovative. While it’s true that Gen Y counts technical skills as their strongest skillset (26.9% compared to 9.8% for baby boomers), baby boomers are ahead of their younger counterparts in terms of innovation and problem solving (22.5% to 19.9%), collaboration and teamwork (25.9% to 16.9%), and people skills (29.9% to 23.9%). In short, seniors have the interpersonal skills to get work done, and a creative mind to find better solutions to problems.
Seniors Are Loyal
Organizations should be falling over themselves to hire seniors. They’re more loyal to the organization, and with the wealth of work experience that they have, they become ideal mentors for the younger generations, helping to facilitate a better knowledge transfer within the organization.
With populations around the world aging, organizations will need to open more to the idea of hiring seniors. That age demographic will account for an increasing percentage of applications, so doing away with the false assumptions about seniors in the workplace will become increasingly important to the health of the business.