Instead of hiring millennial or younger workers, some companies are actively recruiting older workers for their teams, believing that they have a stronger, more dedicated work ethic, Callum Borchers writes for the Wall Street Journal.
According to Borchers, "certain businesses are targeting seniors on the premise that age is an asset." Although perceptions of generational differences aren't always true, a recent Wall Street Journal-NORC survey found that 75% of people 65 and older said hard work was very important to them personally, compared to 61% of those ages 18 to 29.
Kip Conforti, who owns two package shipping stations, said he used to primarily hire high school and college students as his workers, but they often arrived late and called out often. Around a year ago, he changed his tactics and began hiring older workers, who he's said have done much better.
"The learning curve is a bit longer, but once they get it, God, it's refreshing," Conforti said. "I say, 'This is what we’re doing today,' and it gets done. Their shift starts at 9 and they're here at 8:50. It's their work ethic."
Similarly, KinderCare Learning Center, which operates over 1,500 childcare facilities, last year expanded its recruiting efforts to include older workers amid a shortage of childcare workers. Although the final number of hires has not yet been tallied, Travis Trautman, the company's senior director of talent acquisition, said the effort has already paid off.
"There's a willingness from this group to work the opening shift or to close down for the day, to cover during lunches and breaks or even be on call as needed," Trautman said. "I could go on and on about the value and benefits" of older workers.
"It makes great business sense to hire experienced workers," said Heather Tinsley-Fix, senior adviser for employer engagement at AARP. "More companies are also recognizing the need to include age in their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts."
According to federal data, people ages 55 and older are the fastest-growing group in the workforce, in part due to demographic shifts, as well as inflation and a weak stock market that may be preventing some older individuals from retiring.
To help older people in the workforce, some organizations, such as AARP, have created programs to help workers over 50 find jobs more easily. AARP has also asked companies to sign a pledge to fairly consider workers over 50 for positions.
Currently, more than 2,500 companies, including Bank of America, Microsoft, and H&R Block, have committed to AARP's pledge, and commitments rose 122% from 2021 to 2022.
ManpowerGroup, a global staffing agency, has also launched a placement program for "mature" workers after receiving concerns about labor shortages and high turnover from clients. According to Laurel McDowell, who came out of retirement to lead the program at the organization, older workers can fit well with businesses that are focused on retention.
Although younger workers don't necessarily change jobs more frequently, older workers tend to value stability, McDowell said. "We're not generally looking for the next move," she said of her age cohort. "Frequently you can get us for a very reasonable cost."
Although ageism may be a barrier for some older workers, age discrimination complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decreased by 45% between 2011 and 2021. According to Johnny Taylor Jr., CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, this is partly because such claims are difficult to prove, but also because there has been a meaningful decline in age discrimination.
In general, the younger generation's approach to work isn't necessarily worse than that of the older generation, but "old-fashioned grinders appeal to employers," Borchers writes. (Borchers, Wall Street Journal, 4/6)
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