This post originally appeared in Forbes Leadership blog section on March 19, 2019.
When companies began jumping on the diversity and inclusion (D&I) bandwagon en masse in the late 80s and early 90s, it seemed a natural extension of affirmative action and equal opportunity programs. Over time, company D&I slogans moved from diversity being the “right thing to do” to diversity “being good for business.”
Company leaders began to recognize the importance of creating an employee culture that reflected their customer base and community. And, while age has been a protected category since the passage of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) in 1967, it has not, generally speaking, been at the forefront of U.S. D&I strategy.
Now, older workers are calling attention to ageism in hiring, promotions, development opportunities and redundancy. Most significant, the effects of ageism are felt by everyone across all races, genders and sexual orientation.
Why? Because aging is the one thing we all share.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, older workers represent the largest candidate pool in the workplace. And to correlate with the increase in older workers is an increase in reports of age discrimination according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in some cases complaints have nearly doubled.
While some industries (such as tech) skew toward an under 40 work force, the reality is that there are many benefits for recruiting, hiring and retaining older workers.
Here are seven of them:
Overlooked talent pool. Picking is ripe in the pool of qualified candidates with years of experience under their belts. If you need talent and someone who can pass the knowledge baton, this talent pool is where you want to look.
Varied experiences. The youngest boomers, for example, have been in the working world for about 35 years. In many cases, that means a variety of career experiences across a broad scope of opportunity brings a lot to the table.
Stay longer. Data shows that older workers tend to stay longer with their employer. If you want to lower your turnover rate while increasing the level of experience this is a good way to do it.
Flexible learning styles. Older workers have already experienced profound changes in their working world–from typewriters to word processors to everything digital. They have learned via classroom and online. Their flexibility and adaptability keep them in the game because change is the status quo and they know it.
Shorter learning curve. Given their comfort with change and flexible learning styles, older workers adapt quickly to change, and that means learning anything related to business success–even (gasp) technology. As this TechRepublic report states, older workers are less stressed about using technology than younger people.
Add valuable perspective. Diverse teams yield better decisions as this study suggests. Including age as a diversity component lays the foundation for a rich exchange of information.
Motivated to work. Older workers are motivated to work for a variety of reasons, including the desire to stay in the game, share their knowledge and skills to make a positive impact and pad their retirement so as not to become a financial burden to the children. Doesn’t every company covet a motivated employee who is willing to go above and beyond?