“Older Americans want to continue working,” said Art Koff, founder of RetiredBrains.com, a job and information resource for baby boomers, retirees and others who are planning what their retirement might look like in coming years. And that’s a good thing for small business owners, say researchers, HR experts and small business owners themselves.
Contrary to what you might think, greying employees can be a boon to your business. In a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management on older workers, researchers found that the top three advantages of these employees, compared with their younger counterparts, are:
- More work experience
- A higher level of maturity/professionalism
- A stronger work ethic
“Older workers can hit the ground running,” said Kerry Hannon AARP’s Jobs Expert and author of 10 books including “Getting the Job You Want After 50 for Dummies.” “This is especially good for small businesses and startups that need to move quickly.”
“Older employees also have the knowledge gained through decades spent in the field, they’re reliable, they show up at work on time and have a work ethic that is ingrained,” said Hannon.
Other benefits they offer, according to Hannon:
- They can see the big picture. They’ve weathered lots of business ups and downs and have a long-term perspective.
- They have people skills that boost morale. They know the value of a phone call instead of a text, a face-to-face “good morning” or personal congratulations for a job well done.
- They’ve learned how to work and can do their job without supervision, freeing you up for other responsibilities.
For Colin Milner, who founded the International Council on Aging 15 years ago, the employees who have aged along with him have helped him remain competitive. “They have an immense knowledge of what my business is and what we do,” he said.
HR managers are seeing the value of older employees and, instead of trying to phase them out, they’re encouraging them to postpone retirement, according to the AARP report “A Business Case for Workers Age 50+: A Look at the Value of Experience 2015.”
A bonus: Over-50 workers are likely to be more enticed by non-financial incentives such as flexible work schedules, telecommuting options and opportunities to learn new skills.
Another bonus: While younger workers may see the job as a stepping stone, meaning you’ll have to hire and train their replacements when they leave, seasoned employees may be more likely to stick around.
Managing and retaining older employees
Unless you’re hiring for a position that requires a specific skill set (to manage your social media accounts, for example), both younger and older workers usually require on-the-job training, according to Milner, with little difference in effort and cost other than, perhaps, the way training is delivered.
“Younger employees may want to learn online, while older workers may prefer face-to-face education,” he said.
“Learning what works best for different employees, no matter what their age, makes you a more flexible — and more appealing — employer,” said Milner.
To attract and keep older workers, offer flexible work arrangements that allow time for responsibilities such as caregiving for elderly parents, and take into account any physical challenges (perhaps moving from a job that requires standing to one that can be done seated). Above all, treat all employees equally to foster a positive and enthusiastic workplace mentality.
“By treating your older workers as part of your team, you’ll show them that you value their contributions to your business,” said Art Koff.
That’s what Matt Arney, founder of the startup TranslateNow, has found. “I’m working closely with a nearly 80-year-old advisor who is helping with our corporate formation and investment strategy,” said Arney. “He has had a very successful career and takes pride in helping startups to grow and avoid mistakes he’s seen in his career. His advice has been invaluable and he’s a trusted member of the team.”
by: Carol Sorgen