We would all like to stay away from controversy and confrontations but, I nearly lost it when a HR counterpart of mine was flippantly announcing to this veteran group that he would advise against bringing retirees back! According to him, ‘the doddering old codgers’ will only work between naps, and anyway come to work only for the money it pays rather than the intellectual stimulation and challenge it provides! I cannot help wondering if my esteemed colleague is planning to stay frozen at ‘30 plus’ by using a magic wand or something equally fantastic! Probably this kind of mindset explains why unemployed senior workers are coming to be considered the new ‘unemployables’! According to one survey, nearly two thirds of unemployed workers over 55 are on the look-out for a job for periods exceeding one whole year and more! Should the over-50 something’s start dying their hair and pruning away about 10 years of work experience from their resumes? Does this mean that people who are older and officially reach retirement age should slowly walk off into the sunset without once looking back?
That would be a very sad day indeed!
I, for one, have no fears that age would detract from my abilities in any manner – nor, I would say, does America as a country – seeing how 23 out of 44 Presidents were elected to the country’s top job after they passed the age of 55! It has something to do with the impossibility of growing wise heads on young shoulders. We need those seniors and retirees for various reasons.
The industrial economy of the past was dependent on the physical strength of its workers. Our notion of “retirement at 65” is based on this outdated notion. Today, the U.S. economy is dependent on knowledge workers, individuals who can apply the appropriate skills, experience and accumulated wisdom to new opportunities and challenges.
Senior workers are rich in knowledge, experience and come equipped with strong networks. Today’s seniors are about developing themselves further, and being recognized for their professionalism and credentials. More interestingly, numerous studies have found them to be far more entrepreneurial in their approach to life than their children (or grandchildren!). Entrepreneurship is an important attribute to fill a position in any company seeking to carve its own niche in its industry. A senior person would inevitably make more informed decisions which can make or break the success of a venture. He or she would also have the necessary knowledge and information required for such a position and can make things happen, if treated right.
Some industries may find that critical skills are totally lost forever with the departure of the senior workers. With the looming departure of baby boomers, these companies need to review their processes and preserve these specific skills and the essential elements of intellectual capital required for them to perform efficiently and effectively– or face debilitating, if not monumental performance-related issues later on.
Older workers make the best trainers and mentors, applying accumulated knowledge and practical experience.
Just because a committed and qualified (read, invaluable) employee turned an year older, no smart employer will wish to send them out – and start working on the near impossible task of finding the same skills in his or her replacement! Where the worker prefers to retire, employers today find it expedient to bring them back as part-time or contingent workers offering them work conditions suited to their lifestyles and choices.
Incorporating an alumni retention program is what works best for such smart employers. Let us discuss how this can be achieved, while staying compliant with the various labor and tax laws in another post.
The other good thing about us ‘doddering old codgers’ is that we have made and learned from the mistakes that those ‘young whipper snappers’ haven’t thought of yet. The one thing I have to remember is that they should try their mistakes as well once they know where I failed, the ‘I’ve tried that before and it didn’t work’ doesn’t mean their effort won’t succeed where I failed.
You raise some valid points, and I do believe that [a company] would like the old codgers back in place, as they had the experience, not just to deal with new openings, but also to, when required assist [Managers] with issues that needed to be handled. I have had complaints from several friends … about the cavalier attitude that the younger folks give them when they need a solid answer on how to deal with an issue, whether it be with Managed Staffing or just how to get around a problem once the employee is in place, and you only can get those answers from experienced personnel with customer service and ethics as their standard.
This subject must have been discussed over cups of tea and coffee extensively. The reality is, the one who grooms his successor and makes an exit so that his absence is not felt is the greatest leader. Frankly, how many of us would dare to do that? having said this, it is also a pity if we let these baby boomers go. Their experience and knowledge can be used in a way that the structure of the organization is not affected.
Your response makes sense as well, but when the Program Manager specifically states that the young whipper snapper is not responsible for the Old Codger’s Purchase Order, that tends to make a point that upper management is not interested in grooming the youngster for a smooth transition. That being said, when the more senior employee is let go, it leaves a void that is difficult to fill. Program Management lack of tact and diplomacy also leads to a feeling of a hostile work environment, which is not healthy for the employees or the corporation. The inability of Program Management to realize that employees are human capital, makes partnering for success a moot point.
Every individual is a resource. And I believe that we can achieve success when we utilize each resource to “his” full potential. We can utilize an experienced resource to handle the complex situations as a mentor or consultant.
I would like to draw a simple example. We cannot ask a pure batsman to bowl and then expect him to take wickets. If he does, it will be a bonus. But a batsman is best left to bat.
Same with the elderly people. We cannot entrust them with the duties of the young and expect him to perform.
A company will flourish when we do the “division of labour” perfectly and this is where we can distinguish between a good and a bad HR.
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