This post was sparked by an interesting debate around a client. In essence it revolved round the client's exasperation at dealing with their younger workers - mainly the younger end of the Millennials i.e 20-30. It was somewhat ironic in that they made considerable efforts to attract and hire those younger workers. We felt they were missing a trick in not being more open to looking at older workers.
There still seem to be enduring myths round older workers. So by way of examining the situation and making our case let's focus on these:
- Younger workers are more entrepreneurial and innovative? Well, more and more research suggests this is not so true these days. In the USA, the country most of us would think of as valuing entrepreneurship and innovation; the Ewing Marion Kaufmann Foundation an organisation focused on business startup showed that in 2016 the 55-64 age bracket accounted for some 25.5 of new business owner/operators. The US Bureau of Labour Statistics is also tracking continued increase in share of both employment and self-employment in 65+ age group. It's estimated that the 50+ age group will shortly start more businesses in the US than any other age group.
So perhaps older workers can be just as entrepreneurial and innovative as younger ones.
- Older workers will take more sick time? If you still think this, then perhaps a UK study by Insurance Company RIAS might change your mind. The bottom line of their research was that over 50s take LESS time off than younger workers. They take on average just half the sick days of those under 30.
So in general, it's less duvet days, Monday-itis", Hangovers and "I was too tired to get up" with older workers.
- Older workers are more likely to leave and are less loyal? Taking research from Australia this time. There, the Parliamentary Library analysis of official labour market data found that workers under the age of 34 were twice as likely to leave a job for reasons of; wanting a change of scene, finding a better job, looking for more pay or conditions, than those over 45. Indeed there is increasing evidence, anecdotal and otherwise that workers even at retirement age are in many cases often keen to stay on with their employers - if given the chance. A last factual item to chew on. In the US the average tenure for employees 25-34 is only 3.2 years - for employees aged 65 it is 10.3 years.
So the evidence suggests as employees age they tend to stay with you longer, which certainly helps with a business case of hiring and retaining them.
- Older workers struggle with new technology? This is well worn stereotype and seems to be just assumed to be true. But is it really? By way of example, MORI the UK market research firm did a study with Dropbox in 2016 in the UK and Europe. They found some, perhaps, surprising things. Older workers use slightly more forms of tech 4.9 than the average of all workers 4.7. So they are not shy of using technology. They did find that a quarter of older workers get stressed with tech at work. However, this was a lot less than the 36 of Millennials who felt the same way. Also only 13% of older workers said they had trouble working with multiple devices versus 37% of younger workers.
So although intuitively this may sound true. It's not. What gets perhaps overlooked is that older workers have been acquainted with tech for much longer and this experience - even with now outdated systems - still gives a lot to draw on. By way of a personal perspective some of the best web systems designers I know are in their 50's.
- Older workers are less productive? But surely this must be true? Well, actually maybe it's not. The Cogito Study in 2010 found older workers’ (65–80) mental productivity was more consistent than younger workers’ (20–31) . The study included tests of cognitive abilities, perceptual speed, episodic memory and working memory. Researchers initially expected that the younger workers would perform tasks more consistently over time, while the older workers would be more variable. But the data showed 65-80-cohort was more stable and less variable than the younger group. They also found the same with cognitive performance. Other studies also show older workers have been shown to perform well when it comes to organisation, writing and problem solving.
So on balance, older employees’ mental productivity can actually be higher than that of their younger colleagues with little actual evidence to suggest they are, as a group, any worse.
In looking at each of these stereotypes regarding older workers being more unfavourably placed verses much younger counterparts and finding that this is false. We suggest there is a strong business case for actively considering older workers within your organisation. In purely evidential terms older workers, as shown above, will on average likely out perform (on these considerations) younger workers. You can certainly say with confidence that at the very least, that they are certainly no worse. So whilst we all know that whilst age discrimination should not happen - but sadly it still does. Perhaps this post might help you persuade your organisation to reexamine how you might benefit from both recruiting and retaining your order workers.
As this post demonstrates - all prejudices aside - it's just good business.