Friday, April 3, 2009

Grey Hair is on Sale -- 7 Reasons to Hire Older Workers

The "bring your own agenda" nature of Chief Executive Boards International meetings has recently led to some different views and ideas on where and how to fill job openings as business is (or will be) picking up.

The 2009 recession has disrupted numerous businesses, careers and lives. Some particularly disadvantaged casualties are now job seekers in the 50+ age bracket. Many of these people are highly skilled, hard workers who find themselves jobless due to factors far beyond their control. Many have been highly paid in the past, now hampering their marketability in a perverse way. They're simply considered too expensive for many small and mid-size businesses.

This, like other collateral damage of this recession, is a huge opportunity in disguise for savvy business owners. These people not only need work, they need a place to contribute and to be valued. And in many cases they need those things (along with health care benefits) worse than they need the great salaries they enjoyed in the past.

As the recovery from this recession (yes, there will be one) progresses, you're going to need more help. You're still standing, and many of your competitors aren't, thereby putting lots of growth opportunities on the table. Look at this 50+ age group far more seriously than you have in the past. Consider their salary requirements highly negotiable. Many, for example, will be happy to trade salary for time off. Who says you need a 40-hour employee in every position? How about a 30-hour employee for a 25% discount? Let them work it in three 10-hour days, and you've probably got a deal. Many are likely to be so sure of their skills that they'll work for a reduced salary and a performance-based bonus.

Here are at least 7 reasons you should be not just considering, but seeking out workers over 50:

  1. Work Ethic -- The widely chronicled difference in the view of what "work" is between the boomers (now turning 62) and Gen-x (30-somethings) and Gen-Y (20-somethings) will feel good to you, particularly if you're a boomer yourself (over 45).

  2. Maturity -- These are grownups. They understand that if the plane leaves at 7:30 am and they're not there, it's going without them. They realize there are things they don't know. They can look beyond themselves.

  3. Organizational Skills -- These workers have years of experience inside organizations, large and small. They know how things work and how to get things done. And many of them have well-developed leadership skills that may not be required by the entry-level job but will become valuable to you elsewhere.

  4. Responsiveness -- When you communicate with these people, whether by email, phone, or in person, they'll answer you. And they understand "I need you to...." or "We need to..." as a directive, not a suggestion.

  5. Functional Expertise -- If you're hiring for a specific functional specialty, why not look for years of experience, hard knocks, and perhaps continuing education in the field? Many older workers have all that.

  6. Loyalty and Commitment -- These people are not looking for the next rung on their career ladder. You're it. If you treat them even close to fairly, they'll be with you as long as you want them.

  7. Cost -- Most of your workforce takes fringe benefits for granted, particularly health care coverage. Not this group -- they've faced the world without health care coverage, priced it on the open market, and know what it's worth (if available at all). And many will be happy to exchange schedule flexibility for salary. Their income requirements may be lower than you think, or than they used to be.

Consider the value to your business of an experienced, expert and hardworking resource. Granted, he or she may not be a 20-year employee. Chances are, however, a displaced person hired in his or her mid-50s will be around for 10 or even 15 years, if you wish.

What's your experience with hiring older workers? Or if you've used creative compensation, flexible hours or other strategies to hire highly experienced, senior employees at a bargain price, please click on Comments below and share your experience with others.

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Terry Weaver

Chief Executive Boards International

Chief Executive Boards International: Freedom for business owners & CEOs -- Less Work, More Money, More Freedom to enjoy it

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