If you’re part of the growing segment of working baby boomers, you already know you bring value and skill sets to the workforce. Finally, the rest of corporate America has caught on. A new AARP report, A Business Case for Workers Age 50+: A Look at the Value of Experience 2015, conducted by Aon Hewitt and based on data from large employers, found companies favor hiring older employees.
Workers over 50 are a growing segment of the workforce: About 35 percent of U.S. labor force participants will be age 50-plus in 2022. This compares to just 25 percent in 2002.
What’s more, the report mentioned myths, like older workers are more expensive, demanding higher salaries for their years of experience. But the fact is that employers typically tie salary to performance, so costs have less to do with tenure, making boomers no more expensive to hire than any other generation.
Another myth: the aging population costs more to employ, because of their numerous health issues. However, it seems those rumors have been highly exaggerated as the heath of baby boomers is thriving, with boomers taking better care of themselves, eating healthy and exercising more than any generation before them, so employer health care costs and lost work days aren’t prohibitive.
Even sweeter, productivity seems to increase with age. The report found that employee productivity actually increases in workers up to age 65 because of fewer serious errors at work and more attention to detail than their Generation X (30 to 40-year-old) and millennial (20-something) counterparts.
Contrary to one of the most pervasive stereotypes, boomer employees aren’t tech savvy, the report found older employees are comfortable with devices, work with professional software, and want to learn more about social media and how it can improve the bottom line.
The report also found that some employers even go out of their way to hire older employees, using them as consultants, providing phased retirement with decreased hours over time, and offering flexible schedules or part-time hours that fit best with busy boomer lifestyles.
Staying Relevant in the Workplace
So just how can you stay in or get back into the workforce when you have a few more gray hairs? The key is to keep yourself relatable on as many fronts as possible. Employers actually prefer to hire a mix of millennials; Gen Xers (those mid-career); and boomers who have either heavy industry experience, changed careers or retired from one industry only to venture into another line of work with their life experience.
• Mentor. Think back to when you were starting out. Did you have a mentor or colleague who provided guidance or took you under their wing? Now you are the mentor and have an opportunity to give back and guide. Be willing to do this, and suggest it to an employer.
• Find a junior colleague to reverse mentor you. Need a lesson in Instagram or how to use Twitter or Facebook more effectively? Since your workplace may be rife with employees spanning the generation gap, create a two-way exchange of information. Junior colleagues offer insight too.
• Practice out-of-the box thinking. Younger employees tend to offer out-of-the box ideas and creative solutions to problems. They’ve been encouraged to brainstorm in groups since high school and are comfortable holding an exchange of ideas in the office. Try participating in these exchanges to show your relevancy and problem solving skills.
• Develop a millennial mindset. Management styles have evolved. No longer is the tyrannical boss who never steps out of his corner office seen as effective. If you’re in management, adopt techniques that reflect an age-diverse workforce, like a focus on performance, not face time in the office, and an encouragement of collaboration of ideas.
• Play up your invaluable real-life experience and ability to make hard decisions, which can only be learned with time.
• Demonstrate you are just as eager to learn and succeed as any millennial or Gen Xer.