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3 Reasons Why Hiring Older Employees Is a Smart Decision

Companies and firms can benefit from taking advantage of all those decades of hard-earned experience. By INSIGHT Editorial Staff | Digital Exclusive - 2018

Baby Boomer at Work

In the 2015 movie “The Intern,” Robert DeNiro starred as a 70-year-old widower who returns to the workforce as an under-appreciated and seemingly out-of-step intern working for a young boss played by Anne Hathaway.

Initially, Hathaway’s character can’t quite relate to this baby boomer who ditched retirement out of boredom, but by the film’s finale she comes to appreciate his skills and experience.

In real life, you’re unlikely to encounter a 70-plus-year-old intern, but it’s not unusual for senior professionals to stay in the workforce longer or relaunch their careers instead of settling into retirement.

And, believe it or not, that can be good for business. Companies and firms can benefit from taking advantage of all those decades of hard-earned experience, suggests Andrew Simon, a partner in Simon Associate Management Consultants, who himself is in his 70s.

“Starting a new career after 60 is not for everyone,” Simon says. “But it can be rewarding for those with energy and commitment levels that are high, and who are willing to learn new skills and keep up with constantly evolving technology.”

The question is whether businesses will balk at hiring workers who, in many cases, are old enough to be the parents of the people supervising them. Sure, there are downsides, Simon says, but the upsides can be tremendous when it’s the right fit for the right person.

Simon says companies and firms should keep these few things in mind as they weigh whether to hire older workers:

1. Experience Helps

Baby boomers come to the table with a whole set of experiences, including 30 to 40 years of interpersonal and people management skills that make them more adept at dealing with unique situations or different types of people.

“On the flip side,” Simon says, “some of them could lack the technical skills that we take for granted in today’s workforce. So, be careful [with] what you’re asking them to do.”

2. Self-motivation Matters

If someone’s just working for a paycheck, they may not cut it, but odds are older employees are more self-motivated than some of the younger generations in today’s workforce.

“If these potential workers would like to join an organization or start a new career after 60, they probably like the idea of work,” Simon says. “They need to do something every day. Perhaps they view their job as intellectually stimulating.”

3. Culture Counts

Baby boomers often have a very different set of values than, say, millennials or Gen Z. “Different things motivate them,” Simon says. “The culture of an organization is very important and can be tricky. You want to make sure these older workers have an opportunity to thrive in your environment.”

While it’s best to avoid stereotyping the generations too much, in general, baby boomers tend to be productive, loyal to the company, willing to put in long hours to get the job done and prefer conversations in person (hence why they’ve generally done so well in accounting and finance careers).

“Companies that pass on hiring older workers risk missing out on people who could become some of their most valuable employees,” Simon says. “Age shouldn’t be the issue. Instead, as with any hire, the issue is what skills and experiences each person brings to the workforce.”

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