Monday, February 27, 2012

In Praise of Older Workers

I will qualify this article by stating I am mature worker with over 20 years of experience in many different fields of work.   At the age of 7, I worked in a corner grocery store that belonged to my parents.  Since then, I have stocked shelves, worked in a bank and been hired to do everything from junior sales and customer service positions to senior level executive positions in both profit and non-profit organizations.  My career history includes stops along the way to pursue formal education and training, supervisory duties as an assistant and a front line supervisor, a business strategist, writer, and career coach.  

Here is what I have learned, so far:

Fact: Boomers are saying that they either need or want to work past conventional retirement age

Fact: Employers who used to resist hiring older workers are slowly coming to realize that mature workers represent a great source of highly skilled, experienced and flexible employees that they simply can’t afford to overlook anymore.
For a list of employer ‘desirables’ that mature workers can bring to the table, please read on:
  • Entrepreneurial Skills - Mature workers are skilled at making informed decisions,  and accustomed to taking responsibility for their actions.  They communicate effectively, are well versed in strategic planning and execution and have acquired the majority of their learning [hard skills and soft skills] on someone else’s dime.
  • Personal Vision - They have a healthy understanding of who they are and what is and is not important. Mature workers are not afraid to be different, they naturally stretch boundaries and challenge the status quo.  Employers should never be surprised when a mature worker comes up with new and creative idea on how to solve an issue or a problem.
  • Flexibility - Mature workers are not tied to a work schedule.  If they are parents, it is likely that their children are older, more self-sufficient/independent and need only to be tethered to their parents by electronics.
  • Typically ignore job descriptions - This particular quality/quirk is particularly valuable for smaller companies wherein it is important that employees can think on their feet, adapt quickly to shifting priorities, and do whatever it takes, regardless of role or position, to get things done.
  • Outspoken when necessary - Mature workers have learned through experience that some employees are hesitant to speak up during meetings and that some employees are even hesitant to speak up privately.  Older employees have an innate feel for the issues and concerns of those around them, and have no problem stepping up to ask questions or raise important issues when others hesitate.
  • Complain privately - Mature workers know that the most successful employers want employees to bring issues forward.  They are also acutely aware that some problems are better handled in private.  Mature employees will always find the time to come to their supervisor/director before or after a meeting to discuss sensitive issues because they know instinctively that bringing the issue up in a group setting could set off a firestorm.
  • Self-motivating - Although mature workers are keen to follow established procedures and processes, they are even keener to find ways to make improvements on the status quo. Older workers seldom get bored.  Mature workers are driven by something deeper and far more personal than just the desire to do a good job.  They thrive when they have the freedom to rework a timeline, adjust a process or tweak a workflow
  • Lengthier Tenure - Statistically speaking, older workers will stay with the company longer than their younger colleagues. There is a direct correlation between the age of the employee and the length of time they stay with the company.  Average tenure is 18 months.
  • Emotional Intelligence - Older workers will not demand a higher salary than the market is willing to bear.  They are happy to stay as long as it takes in order to reap the rewards of their labour.
  • Bench markers -  Older workers usually outperform their peers because they have already acquired the skills and knowledge to manage through adversity. They have personally experienced working in a soft economy and remember that it wasn’t much fun.  For a mature worker, a sub-par performance is not an option.  
  • Cheerleaders/Hustlers - Mature workers are enjoy motivating others.  They ooze self- confidence naturally and they instinctively know how to re-energize morale and improve productivity.
Older workers typically have a large network of friends and acquaintances.  They have plenty of fuel in their tanks and work as hard, usually harder, than anyone else on the team. 

Some people will put for the argument that companies are struggling to make a profit and that they simply can’t afford to a seasoned veteran. To those nay-sayers I would argue that those employers simply cannot afford not to hire mature workers. During these tough times, there are no other individuals that companies should have on their team and in their trenches more than these seasoned veterans.

Copyright © 2012, Career Matters. All Rights Reserved. Permission to Reprint: This article may be reprinted, provided it appears in its entirety with the following attribution: Copyright © 2012, Career Matters. Reprinted by permission of the author, Mary Salvino. “Career Matters” is a blog authored by Mary Salvino, Senior Consultant for SMART Career that is dedicated to those who are seeking advice on managing their career and future job opportunities. We welcome readers to share their experiences, post their comments or ask questions about career related matters. This blog is also dedicated to those who stand a little taller each time they picked themselves up after failing and those who gained the wisdom and humility from those experiences to help others do the same. For any questions or comments that are better addressed privately, please feel free to e-mail Mary directly at