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Older employees present a hiring opportunity and challenge

It’s in every employer’s best interest to keep an open mind about where the right talent for an open position may lie. Of course, in some industries, minds couldn’t be more open because skilled labor shortages are driving organizations to look everywhere for new hires.

If you want to grow your workforce or need to fill long-vacant jobs, you may be overlooking an entire generation of workers who many assume have hung it up for good or are planning to do so soon. That’s right, older workers — including a lot of Baby Boomers — are still a viable labor force.

Myriad benefits

How viable? Of the 2.9 million jobs gained over 2018, 49% were filled by workers age 55 and over, according to analysis by economic researchers TLRanalytics of a December employment report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So, though many Boomers have retired, plenty remain available to provide value to the right organization.

Older workers offer myriad benefits. For starters, they’ve lived and worked through many economic ups and downs, so the word “budget” tends to keenly resonate with them. In addition, many are well connected in their fields and can assemble talented teams quickly. Seasoned workers also tend to be self-motivated and require little supervision.

Transitional tips

Adding older employees to a workforce predominantly staffed by Gen Xers and Millennials can present challenges to maintaining the stability of your organizational culture. But there are ways to ease the transition:

Keep everyone informed. When an employer brings in a noticeable number of older workers, existing employees may wonder what’s going on. If appropriate, explain the rationale of this hiring strategy and how it will benefit everyone. While you’re at it, reassure employees that you’ll continue to value their contributions and empower their career paths.

Involve other employees. When it makes sense to do so, ask those who will work directly with a new hire to sit in on the initial job interviews. You’ll likely experience less resistance if an older employee’s co-workers are involved in his or her hiring from the beginning. (However, ensure every interviewer understands proper interviewing techniques to avoid legal problems.)

Offer management training. To improve the efficacy of your intergenerational workforce, offer training to managers who may suddenly find themselves supervising employees with many more years of work experience. Learning to listen to an older worker’s suggestions while sticking to the organization’s strategic objectives and operational procedures isn’t always easy.

Establish a mentoring program. Bringing in new employees of a different age group is an opportune time to institute a mentoring program, if one isn’t in place already. Pair up newly hired older workers with younger staff members and watch both groups learn from each other.

Be flexible

Remember, older workers don’t have to be full-time employees. Many may relish the opportunity to work as part- or flex-timers and will perform optimally in that role. Contact us for further information on how to manage the costs of and maximize the return on your hiring efforts.

© 2019

Laura L. Stover, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, lstover@sek.com

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