When Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Taobao posted a job vacancy for a senior employee this month, 1,000 applications flooded in within 24 hours Business Insider reported.
Global business consultant Keith Martino has seen something similar occur in the U.S.
"Recently, one of my clients posted on his LinkedIn page an announcement regarding a part-time CFO position for a seasoned professional," says Martino. "Within minutes, he received an avalanche of strong resumes. Twenty-four hours later he had 300, and they were still flooding in."
Keynote speaker and entrepreneur Olga Mizrahi isn't surprised.
"The baby boomer population is currently around 75 million; only slightly surpassed by millennials," says Mizrahi. "People are staying in the workforce longer. Some remain for economic reasons, but many enjoy the intellectual and social benefits."
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2014, about 40 percent of people ages 55 and older were working or seeking employment. That number is expected to increase considerably through 2024, especially for people ages 65 and older.
—Olga Mizrahi, entrepreneur
The way transitional life strategist and reinvention expert Randi Levin sees it, baby boomers are changing the face of employment.
"With age comes wisdom, and with longevity seniors have the ability to craft second and third careers that showcase and highlight their unique talents and wisdom," Levin says.
The Advantages of Hiring Older Workers
Given their years of experience and resulting breadth of knowledge, older employees can bring many benefits to a business.
"For an employer, hiring older workers is a significant win," says Levin. "Generally reliable, seasoned and accomplished, older employees will usually have an intuitive, broad point of view of a business as a whole. They bring skill sets that younger workers may not have mastered yet. They're the perfect candidates to train and mentor others."
Experience counts, agrees Andrew Simon, a partner at the management consultant firm SAMC.
"Baby boomers come to the table with a rich set of experiences," Simon says. "This includes 30 to 40 years of interpersonal skills that make them adept at dealing with unique situations and different types of people."
Martino has spoken with many older executives actively seeking employment and agrees.
"The depths of the older workers' experience are the stuff of which the American dream is built," he says. "The quality of the available talent is staggering. There are former executives who have turned companies around and taken privately owned businesses public."
"Older workers bring more experience and perspective to the workplace," says Lynn Perkins, CEO and co-founder of the online service and mobile app UrbanSitter. "They may also be more reliable, with less chaotic schedules than their younger counterparts."
An older worker may also wish to stay in a role longer, adds Mizrahi.
"The hiring process costs companies time, money and resources," she says, "and there's always risk in bringing on a new employee. Older workers may not be looking to climb the corporate ladder. Many just want stable, sustainable and reliable work."
Older Workers and Part-Time Employment
Employers find when hiring older workers that they may wish to work part-time. The statistics point to this. According to the BLS, 40 percent of workers 65 years and older are employed on a part-time basis.
"Many older workers opt for part-time engagement at work that allows them the flexibility to care for grandchildren, travel, exercise and pursue other interests, while still commanding a paycheck," says Levin. "This influx of part-time workers fills a void for many businesses that may have previously had a tough time finding and retaining committed, dedicated and educated workers willing to work part-time hours and various shifts."
At UrbanSitter, there are many retired school teachers and nurses looking for flexible childcare hours, notes Perkins.
"With a large number of baby boomers wishing to stay in the workforce, even on a reduced schedule, this may help to offset some of the growing labor demand," Perkins says.
Bringing Older Workers Into the Fold
If you want to optimize your company's growth, Martino suggests taking advantage of the wisdom of older workers.
"The faster we can reintroduce this talent, experience and work ethic back into our workforce, the sooner we'll inherit the accruing dividends of those who still have much to offer," he says.
Martino suggests seeking out the brightest and most experienced retired executives you can find. Then you can explain the values of your organization and what you hope to accomplish as a company.
"Invite the retired executives to speak to your senior team and consider compensating them for serving on an advisory board for your company," says Martino. "Ask them to meet with your high-potential employees, one on one. When appropriate, hire them for high-impact projects."
Avoid making assumptions when it comes to hiring older workers, adds Mizrahi.
"Just as you wouldn't discriminate regarding gender or race, be open-minded regarding age," she says. "Look at your 'overqualified' applicants when hiring and keep a talent-first mindset. Champion the right skill set over the patience required when someone needs to learn workplace systems."
When it comes to the generational differences that can occur when hiring older workers into a younger workforce, Perkins suggests focusing on commonalities.
"Baby boomers and Millennials often share values of social responsibility and workplace democracy," she says. "They may differ in their comfort with technology and management styles. Give older workers time to learn new technologies and set up clear lines of communication and expectation. That will give the generations a framework in which to work well together."
"As older and younger generations commingle in the workplace, the rules are being reinvented," says Levin. "Each age group may seek something different, but they're also making unique contributions. Such a mix of minds ignites and grows company cultures. We're only just beginning to see how this age diversity strengthens and enriches the business environment as a whole."
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