Hiring Older Workers Benefits the Entire Community
By Jennifer Vaida, Teacher and Life Coach
Older workers are a valuable resource for companies, and there are countless reasons for hiring them: they bring a wealth of expertise and knowledge to the position; they have long and well-established network contacts that can be valuable to a company; their loyalty, punctuality, and attendance tend to be impeccable; they have a vast arsenal of problem-solving strategies and real-world applications for all kinds of situations; they typically have fewer distractions (family obligations, social media interests, personal branding priorities, etc.) than younger workers. The list goes on.
But what's equally compelling is the value that the entire community derives when companies in that community hire older workers. Here are some of those benefits:
1. We've all seen what happens in communities made up exclusively of younger people. Sleepaway camps. Frat houses. College dorms. It isn't pretty. A healthy balance of people of various ages (and genders and races and socio-economic status, etc.) brings perspective and depth to the make-up of a community.
Older residents who work in meaningful jobs - even part time - tend to stay in their communities. Those who don't work and have to rely on fixed incomes often leave pricey areas (such as the Bay Area) in search of less-expensive costs of living. (We in the Bay Area are currently seeing this exodus as "grey flight" heads toward the Sierra Foothills, Nevada, the Sacramento area, Oregon, and Arizona, among others.) Hiring older workers can help keep them in a community, which is a boon for diversity.
2. When a community's economy isn't healthy, it is immediately apparent: boarded storefronts, closed factories, going-out-of-business sales. A healthy economy is one that is well-supported through commerce, especially consumer commerce.
Economists agree that letting people work longer (more years) boosts overall employment and gives the entire economy of an area a boost (according to AARP.com), as the older worker remains a producer and a consumer longer. Older residents who don't work tend to draw on their social security and/or retirement savings earlier, permanently cutting their benefits and imperiling their retirement security. Keeping workers employed for more years promotes the overall economic health of a region.
3. Imagine a company is facing an obstacle to their expansion plans. Perhaps this is cost-related; perhaps it's zoning-related. Most likely it's a bit of both. Whatever the obstacle, it's going to take some pretty creative thinking to get past it. Should the company turn to a young hot shot for the most creative solution? Or to a seasoned worker?
In his book, The Medici Effect, business guru Frans Johansson writes that creativity comes from making connections among diverse thoughts. The more knowledge someone has, the more connections he/she can make - and the more creative solutions he/she can come up with. The older worker is therefore prime for being able to draw upon more and different experiences to make these connections, making the older worker the perfect candidate to offer creative solutions to problems - which benefits the whole community, not just private-sector businesses.
4. John Donne wrote that no [hu]man is an island. Today, no business is an island, either. Businesses rely on well-developed networks of companies and professionals - for information, for talent, for collaborative problem-solving, for competition, for whatever they need to get the job done.
Inc.com points out that older workers have a wider and deeper network of contacts than younger workers have - from all areas of life (professional, personal, kids' schools, community involvements, worship groups, hobbies/activities, etc.). These expansive networks are good not only for the older employee's company, but also for other businesses in the area. The networking relationship is reciprocal, enriching all contacts/businesses involved, and in turn benefitting the general community.
All in all, hiring and retaining older workers makes good economic sense - not just for individual companies, but for the entire community at large.
Jennifer spent several years working in management training and development, human resources, and corporate administration. Today, she utilizes and leverages much of that expertise in her life coaching practice, helping people of accomplishment identify and attain their "next phase of life" goals. An English, History, and Writing teacher for many years at the college, high school, and middle school levels, Jennifer appreciates that Phase2Careers values training and education as an integral part of its commitment to seasoned workers.