Older Executives: America’s Graying Workforce Is Golden
The nation’s work force is getting older. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people aged 45 to 64 has increased at least 15 percent over the last decade.
Is your company prepared to make the most of America’s older work-force? Too many companies are not, says Michael Carrillo, president of CPGjobs. “And that’s a shame, because it not only shortchanges older workers, but employers as well,” Carrillo says. “Many employers have misconceptions about older workers, of the most common is that they cannot or will not learn new skills. Our experience shows just the opposite.”
“Most executives in their 40s and 50s are familiar with new technologies and methods. Many were early adopters of the PC in the 80s and the Internet in the 90s, and most stay current with industry trends,” he says. “It may sound counter-intuitive, but adaptability to change is a factor in favor of older employees — they can accept change precisely because they’ve been through more of it.”
More disciplined another myth about older workers is that they don’t stay as long on the job as long as younger hires. In fact, the tenure of employees ages 55 to 64 stay on the job three times longer than those 25 to 34, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Then there’s the myth that older employees take more sick days. “Actually, attendance is better among older executives,” says Carrillo. “They have, as a group, a better work ethic.”
And while older executives generally command higher salaries than less experienced colleagues, it is another myth that they cost organizations more in the long run. “When you balance their advantages in experience, productivity, attendance and reduced training and turn-over, they are worth every additional dollar,” Carrillo says.
And in today’s soft employment market, older execs will often gratefully accept salaries lower than hirers might expect.
The Biggest Myth
The biggest and most harmful myth about older workers is that they are “set in their ways.” Carrillo says that “this prejudice is hard to counter because it is so subtle.” He cites research that shows that older managers accept change as readily as younger workers, especially when the purpose of the change is explained.
“Older managers have seen what works and what doesn’t,” Carrillo maintains. “It is shortsighted to turn the greatest advantage of older executives against them — experience is not a disadvantage, but a great asset you can tap into.”
Says Carrillo: “Many hirers look at someone older and assume that their best days are behind them. I think that’s a mistake. It’s important to look beyond conventional wisdom and see the person underneath.”
Sixty the New Forty
Saying that “60 is the new 40,” Carrillo notes that today’s health- and trend-conscious baby boomers feel and act younger than their middle-aged parents did. And he notes that senior business and government leaders have always worked well past retirement age (investor Warren Buffet is 85 and former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan worked till 79, to cite just a few examples). “By what reasoning are energetic executives years younger than this considered ‘over the hill'”?
As the American workforce continues to age in the next decade, executives in their 40s, 50s and even 60s will defy assumptions about them and prove “a great strategic edge for employers who have the vision to hire them,” Carrillo says. “Older executives and middle-managers are one of the great under-utilized resources today,” he says. “Giving them a chance isn’t just good HR policy, it’s good business.”
Michael Carrillo is president of CPGjobs, the CPG industry’s leading candidate recruiting service for HR professionals and employers. You may contact him at Michael@CPGjobs.com or call (626) 535-0143.