If you are an older worker, you may have already run into age discrimination. It is illegal. It is also prevalent. Too often there is a huge difference between reality and perception. The perception is that older workers are slow, less productive, often sick, less competent, less intelligent, are rigid and inflexible, have trouble adapting to change, have poor memories, are accident prone and have difficulty with younger workers and team building.
Each of these perceptions is incorrect.
Employment agency Robert Half says that older works are more conscientious and harder working than younger workers. The Bureau of Business Management rates older workers’ quality orientation as “excellent” 82 percent of the time, and rates their job performance as “excellent” 71 percent of the time.
In addition, the survey found that 97 percent of employers with older workers rated them as thorough and reliable, and less likely to miss work than younger workers. A study by the Society for Human Resource Management also rated older workers highly: 72 percent as Valuable Employees, 77 percent more committed than younger workers and 68 percent more reliable, with a 69 percent better work ethic.
And there is more.
Here is some enlightening information: Older workers tend to be more capable, make better decisions, take less risk and are considered wiser than younger workers. The Harvard Medical School points out that the IQ does not decline with age. Dr. Eleanor Simon states that older workers retain information longer, and they tend to complete training at a higher rate than younger workers.
Since the labor and job market has changed so much in the past few years, some employers are worried that older workers will be unable to adapt. Studies show, however, that precisely the opposite is true. Older workers have experienced much change in their lives, and are able to adapt as needed. The Senior Workforce Solutions study also indicates that 85 percent of employers with older workers say that older workers are open to and adapt to change very well.
Older workers perform better across a broad range of relevant performance indicators: Better skills, especially interpersonal skills, better attendance and greater conscientiousness, according to Peter Capelli, the director of the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School.
Alice H. Munnell, the Peter F. Drucker Professor of Management Sciences at Boston College’s Carrol School of Management and director of the college’s Center for Retirement Research, writes that older workers (those 55 and older) who currently have jobs have performed much better than younger works in a crisis.
Laurence J. Kotlikoff, professor of economics at Boston University, writes that older works are often more productive than younger workers.
A study by the University of Mannheim researchers in Germany for Mercedes-Benz found that older employees are much more productive than younger counterparts, and the researchers indicated that older workers may be an invaluable asset that many companies underuse.
A publication in 2010 entitled “The Silver Tsunami” by Knowledge@Wharton indicates that farsighted employers around the globe are working to recruit, retrain and otherwise engage older workers. Why? Older workers have continuously proved to be, overall, more productive, more reliable and to produce higher quality workmanship.
There is a myth that workers near retirement age tend to lose interest in their jobs. Precisely the opposite is true. The Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College reported that those who worked past retirement age became more, rather than less, engaged and satisfied with their jobs. And contrary to the belief that older workers resist learning new things, older workers ranked “job challenge and learning” as a top priority for satisfaction in their work, says center director Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes.
Let’s see: Older workers are more productive, more reliable, more dependable, and take off less sick time, among their many pluses. Wow. These folks truly are a bargain for the savvy employer!
Richard M. Knappen is president of Chessmen Career Movers, an outplacement, career management, and consulting firm that is one of the oldest and largest locally-owned companies of its type in Southern California.