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April 10, 2013

How to Show You Value Your Aging Workforce

Filed under: Engagement6:00 am

Mature.  Seasoned.  Experienced.  Well-established.  Old school.  Overqualified.  All are words some persons attribute to the aged workforce.   Decades of experience and valuable knowledge of business processes contribute to the fact that many older workers are more highly compensated than someone newer to the workforce and more than likely, younger.  Regardless of their skills and talent, the older worker at times is replaced for younger competition eager for the opportunity to prove themselves in a position of responsibility, whether they have been primed for it or not.  Such business decisions can result in lawsuits alleging age discrimination.

One such case was heard in an Ohio court.  Richard Warden, a retired engineer, was hired by the state on a contract basis.  Prior to this he had worked for the state for nearly 30 years.  When he applied for a full-time job with them, he scored higher than any other applicant.  So did he get the job?  No, he was rejected when the state made the contract job a full-time position and gave it to someone 15 years his junior!  Warden was awarded more than $500,000 to settle his claim of age discrimination.

This example illustrates that age discrimination does happen and with a high cost!  The Department of Labor reports that workers over age 55 spend more time unemployed than their younger counterparts.  Besides their higher earnings, it is perceived that it costs more to employ an older worker and that they won’t be able to fully perform the job duties.

What can be done to change that perception?  The truth is that perceptions are not always an accurate picture of reality.  An older worker possesses a wealth of knowledge that comes from years of experience.  Many have mastered the art of collaboration and the wisdom of listening.  An older worker makes a great mentor for the younger generations, helping them better understand the unique dynamics of the workplace in a positive and productive manner.  They can teach valuable communication skills having built their own professional network and boasting longevity in their careers.  An employer will find themselves well ahead of the game if they utilize these many hidden talents of their loyal workforce and foster it by offering training to keep their workers’ knowledge current and at times, flexible work schedules or part-time employment.   They’ll find that those hidden talents weren’t really hidden, but were there all along!

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