March 15, 2013
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 Our notion of “retirement at 65” is based on this outdated notion.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.
A truly savvy employer does not lose a committed and qualified employee just because he or she is a year older – and then run from pillar to post looking for a suitable person to deliver the very skills caused by the employee’s absence. Even if the employee is looking forward to retirement, employers to find that offering them temporary or consulting positions would motivate them to come back to work under conditions that fit their lifestyles.
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 content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.