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Should Companies Hire Older Workers?

Recruitment Marketing featured

"Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance" - Leon Trotsky

Does age actually matter? We’ve stumbled into many vigorous online debates over how much of a factor age is within the hiring process – it’s clear that older job seekers have a much tougher time of it.

Entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg have made huge success seem even more attainable for the young. There's a growing feeling that college could be a waste - why not starting your very own company?

Students want guidance here and progressive universities like Stanford are responding with their very own courses on how to build a startup (very interesting if anyone is that way inclined).

In the light of all this, younger generations are demanding more and more workplace responsibility. To make room for this, companies are taking it out on older job applicants.

Is this fair? No, definitely not. Older workers can still offer plenty of value.

Here are 4 reasons why companies should hire older workers:

1. Always hire the best candidate

Let’s start with the classic anti-discrimination argument – it doesn’t matter how old you are, it matters how good you are.

We could almost just leave it there. I don’t think you could find anyone that would take genuine issue with that sentiment. Employees and potential hires should be judged based on what they bring to the role – nothing more, nothing less.

Age is a great teacher. Older professionals have had time to learn what works and what doesn’t. They’ve had time to work on themselves, build the best versions that they can be.

They’ve had time to build up extensive networks that are invaluable for business – remember many of the biggest deals often happen outside the boardroom (lending credence to the addage ‘it’s not what you know but who you know…’)

2. The value of mentorship

“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves” – Steven Spielberg

It isn’t just a detailed Roladex that makes your older employees so important, their capacity for mentorship is also essential.

The importance of effective training and development in the workplace cannot be overlooked. People are the one resource that will ultimately set your company apart – you need to help them unlock their potential.

Mentorship schemes are great to add extra value on top of standardised, HR led training schemes. Personal relationships between younger and older employees can go a long way to help strengthen company culture and increase retention rates.

Morgan Stanley ran a successful scheme to retain female employees in their sales department by selecting leaders from different departments to brainstorm a curriculum and consider what characteristics create great company employees. The wisdom and value imparted by these senior employees was vital in keeping top talent at the company.

3. Who is next in line?

One of the first questions that most young people will ask when interviewed will be – ‘how much responsibility will I get in my new role’. Gen Y in particular are especially interested in being granted ownership of their work.

How does this affect older employees? At some point you are going to need to pass on responsibilities to younger members of your team or risk them leaving for a competitor.

This is often why older job seekers are turned away – companies are unsure how long their tenure will be and are unwilling to jeapordise younger workers’ development.

4. Training is worth the money

It’s often easier for companies to favour younger applicants because of their familiarity with technology. The number of roles that require digital natives is growing, and technical skills are at a premium. It’s therefore much easier to hire Gen Y-ers who have a greater level of understanding.

Often employers don’t want to invest in training older employees to get them up to speed. They don’t think about the value that an older worker could provide if given flexible hours and allowed to get to grips with the new requirements of their role.

We need to put aside any ideas that older workers are ‘past it’. They are typically vibrant, energetic and experienced – they have a lot to offer.

Swallowing a few extra training costs would give employers access to a whole new talent pool, definitely worth it in my opinion.