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Older and younger workers benefit businesses

Both older and younger employees are needed in businesses to capitalize on the talents of both groups. It is a myth that older workers tend to be burned out and less productive than their younger colleagues. Many employers have stereotypes about the older worker such as, being older means there are more health problems that might cause the person to miss a lot of work or be a drag on the company’s health insurance plans.

It is also a misconception that older workers need to be paid more than a younger person in the same position. Many people in this age group find that it takes longer to land a job because of these misconceptions some employers have.

Some of the results found in a study of several thousands of employers and millions of workers by Aon Hewitt for AARP came up with these findings.

• The 50-plus age segment in the workforce continues to be more engaged than younger workers.

• 50-plus workers are a critical component of high performance businesses.

• There is a lower turnover rate in older worker groups.

• Adding more employees to your talent pool results in minimal increases in total labor costs.

• These workers contribute to the value-added proposition outweighing any incremental costs.

• Current and future financial needs are the top reasons employees stay in the workforce beyond age 50. Psychological and social fulfillment also play a role.

Many of the more than 78 million baby boomers are choosing not to retire as previous generations have done. Also a lack of retirement planning results in many working longer in order to build up more retirement benefits and save for the future when their income will be reduced. Marital status and health insurance availability also play a role in making the retirement decision.

According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans age 55 and up plan to work until they are 69, up from 64 in 2001. Many choose to work longer simply because they want to. They enjoy their job and the interaction with other people.

Traits that are valued in most older employees and reasons employers should give serious consideration to hiring and retaining older workers include the following.

• Experience

• Confidence

• Patience

• Honesty

• Dependability

• Commitment

• Problem-solving skills

• Ability to multi-task

• High ethical standards

• Customer service acumen

• Listening skills

• Professionalism

• Leadership qualities

Advantages to employers of younger workers include higher technology skills, high energy levels, enthusiasm, flexibility, innovation. When hiring inexperienced, younger employees the compensation expense is often lower than for the older, more experienced workers.

With multiple generations now sharing the workplace, there are many career lessons the two groups can learn from each other. It can be challenging for managers with multiple age groups that have different types of behaviors, motivations and practices to work together successfully, but it can be done. Mentoring will produce many benefits, both older to younger and vice versa.  Research has shown that mixed age groups of employees in teams are the most productive.

Employers should be open minded in recruiting efforts with the goal to always hire the most competent candidates, regardless of age. The Older Workers Benefits Protection Act, OWBPA, passed by Congress in 1990 as an amendment to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, ADEA, is designed to safeguard older workers from age discrimination. In general, it prohibits age discrimination for benefits, including health insurance and life insurance and covers workers over 40 years of age.

People are living longer and are healthier, enabling longer productive careers. The future will have the most age diversified workforce ever. Employers and employees can both benefit from the strengths that are brought to the workplace from older workers. It is a win-win situation.

Becky Vaughn-Furlow retired from Trustmark Bank as executive vice president and human resources director. She can be contacted by emailing bvaughnfurlow@gmail.com.