Blog Grey Power

Australians are increasingly working to older ages, with over 2.5 million workers over the age of 55 currently employed. The rapid growth in this sector is due to population growth, the need to work for financial reasons and a growing number of employees who are simply not ready for retirement at 65!

This presents us with a unique opportunity to harness the wisdom, patience, knowledge, and experience of our mature workers and bring an additional layer of diversity to the mix.

Hiring mature, more experienced employees and bringing back retired former employees is an increasing trend of major global corporations like Intuit, Goldman Sachs, Amazon Web Services, and NBCUniversal. By re-engaging some of their talented, former, retired employees, these organisations are reinvigorating their workplace with a mix of generational differences, perspectives, and expertise.

Ultimately – they are putting into practice what research papers have been telling us for years about the benefits of supporting an ageing workforce.

Here, we share 8 reasons why organisations are embracing “grey power.”

1 Experience directly correlates to success

As the best-selling author Kerry Hannon put it, “The truth is experience, put simply, gives you an edge.” Steve Jobs was 52 when Apple introduced the iPhone, the company’s most profitable innovation. And while it may seem like the faces behind the big IT start-ups that achieved almost overnight success are the youthful, baby-face types, research tells us another story. The most successful entrepreneurs are actually middle-aged.

When it comes to entrepreneurship and company growth, a recent US study showed that success and growth are directly correlated to the increasing age of the founder. This is due to a combination of factors, including our ability to fine-tune our soft skills, which gets better as we get older. Critical thinking, emotional intelligence, influencing skills, managing conflict, communication skills, and empathy are all developed qualities seen in more experienced employees.

You can’t argue with the stats. Hiring an older, more experienced employee may actually increase the chances of growth and success of your organisation.

2 Productivity is often greater in older employees

When you hear the word productivity, chances are you associate it with youth, agility, pace, deadlines, and deliverables. However, speed and physical ability are only one part of productivity. More experienced workers have often made mistakes in their younger years and now know the best way to approach a task – saving time and money. In addition, they may have better knowledge of how things are done which means their speed to competency is much faster. Further, older employees tend to make decisions faster as they have seen it all before – which is a huge asset when deadlines are looming.

In a survey conducted by the Centre on Aging and Work at the Boston College, 80 per cent of managers from the 400 private-sector companies surveyed said, “older workers’ knowledge of procedures and other aspects of the job,” – including their people skills, had a much more positive impact on their productivity. The same study also showed more than half of those employers found the older professionals and managers to be more productive when compared to the younger ones.

When we think of productivity, think broader than the pace of work. Chances are your older workers are getting things done just as efficiently – if not more.

3 Absenteeism is less of a problem

Employees over the age of 50 are more dependable when it comes to showing up to work. According to research, they are four times less likely to take ‘a sickie’ after a Sunday night bender and often go to work because they want to – not because they have to. In fact, when it comes to short-term absenteeism due to sickness or long-term absenteeism due to illness or work-related injuries, all the numbers point in favour of the older group.

Absenteeism costs the Australian economy over $35 billion in wages and lost productivity. So, hiring candidates in the over 50 age group may help avoid some of this cost to your organisation.

4 Strong networks to help get things done

After being in the game a while, experienced employees have crossed paths and developed networks that newcomers to the industry can only dream about. Whether needing to build collaborations, find new suppliers, take a thought leadership position, or tap into new talent pools, the value of an older team member’s contacts, skills and experience should not be underestimated.

A US study found that 46.3 per cent of employers felt their older employees had a much stronger network of professional contacts when compared to their younger counterparts – who scored a relatively lower 30 per cent.

When hiring mature talent, you may wish to ask about professional networks as they may come with a rich list of contacts that may come in handy from time to time.

5 They are not the technological laggards we think

Just because an employee is not Gen Z or a millennial – doesn’t mean they don’t know or can’t handle their tech. It’s actually not a matter of age, but their intellectual engagement. If they’ve been in the workforce and adopting the new technologies, they will do just as well – if not better, than younger team members.

In fact, these more engaged, older, and more experienced employees can really contribute to your business when it comes to new technologies and their implementation. While using the technology can be learnt by anyone willing to learn, its application to real-life situations in the workforce requires more sophisticated skills that may not be found in younger talent.

More experienced employees may read and interpret data differently. As a result, they see further when it comes to possible consequences, adverse outcomes and how they may be prevented.

So, if you want or need someone who can think ahead and see the potential storm brewing beyond the mountain, the older candidate might be the employee you are looking for.

6 Natural mentors - age, wisdom, and expertise

With age comes wisdom and life experience, which is often valued by younger counterparts. Older workers often become natural mentors. They don’t see newcomers as a threat; instead, they often see a younger version of themselves and organically slip into nurturing, guiding roles which can be a real positive for an organisation.

Further, older workers are a perfect fit for managerial, supervisor and mentor positions. They have a wealth of knowledge that took years to accumulate working in the field. It’s something that cannot be learnt - it’s gained through experience.

While humans’ mental ability reaches a peak at 30 and then declines from there, our knowledge and expertise, the main predictors of job performance, continue to increase well into our 80s.

An employee is never too old to contribute to an organisation’s success. While youth bring mental horsepower, age brings knowledge, confidence and expertise that are just as useful in the workplace.

7 Diversity impacts positively on the entire organisation

It is no secret that studies show a diverse workplace makes for a more innovative, thriving, and growing business. When we think of diversity, we often think about gender, ethnic background, sexual orientation, yet we often forget to consider age.

Older employees are often over the ego and competitiveness of their younger years. They want to enjoy their time at work, make a valuable contribution, enjoy the company of others, appreciate the purpose work brings to their life and celebrate their accomplishments.

According to a study from Cornell University in New York, older employees also enjoy working, and it’s not just a ‘must do’ activity. This is especially true if they’ve had a long and meaningful career path. On top of that, they are also more committed to the organisation and are much less likely to change jobs frequently.

The benefit of a diverse workforce comes through acceptance of the varying perspectives - and older employees bring their own couched in wisdom and life experiences.

Mixing up the backgrounds of your team members can be highly beneficial, especially if you encourage open-mindedness and opinion.

The benefits of a diverse workplace don’t just go to the organisation, it also has a lead-on effect on the employees. Older members will teach the young the lessons their experience has taught them, while the young can teach the more experienced new ways of doing things.

8 Focus, enjoyment, loyalty, and stability

What many employers tend to forget when it comes to the more experienced workers is that at 50, they are at their most available and focused. In most cases, if they have children, they are grown adults, so they take less of their mental, emotional, and physical energy.

Older workers often have more to give than they ever did in their 30s and 40s. They are less likely to get the day care flu or to take time off with sick children. They are not juggling school holidays and canteen duty along with their day job.

Often work takes on greater meaning for this age group, and they are more committed, focused, and flexible in helping achieve the company goals – as work is a strong part of their identity.

So, if you would like a dependable, focused, loyal, and stable employee, who enjoys their day job and is motivated to do all they can to get the job done, you might like to consider embracing some “grey power”!

1 If you are looking to reinvigorate and reboot your workplace culture and work ethic, an older employee may be the 'new blood' you are after.

2 A diverse mix of employees, including more experienced candidates over the age of 50, is the best way to achieve maximum output.

3 Older employees have proven to be more productive, loyal, and dependable than their younger counterparts as they have more time and focus on dedicating themselves to work.

4 Absenteeism is less common amongst older employees, and they also come with a richer network of contacts which can come in handy.

5 They can be tech-savvy and take it to the next level while also being great mentors for the incoming generations, sharing expertise accumulated over many decades of experience on the job.

If you need any assistance with hiring, contact a recruitment agency like Trojan Recruitment Group and receive advice from the experts in labour-hire, permanent and contract staff.