The employers I work with are not adverse to hiring people over, let’s say, 50 – what they always want is people who are super capable with a youthful spirit. The assumption is that someone with 25+ years of work experience, while certainly having good knowledge and a great pulse on the market, might not be as fresh as someone in the 35-45 range. Historically this has probably been true. Someone 50+ has already worked the long hours, climbed the ladder to pretty close to as high as they will go, and now is likely to coast doing what they do best.
But today, people are living longer and retiring at 55 or 60 is more and more unrealistic – both for financial reasons and practical reasons; what will people do every day for the rest of their lives…which could be upwards of 40+ years? As such, employers have to accept that they will be employing people who are older than they may have been in the past and employees should assume they will be retiring later than they may have initially thought (I read this article just days after I had written this blog post http://www.gallup.com/poll/168707/average-retirement-age-rises.aspx )
Anyone over around 45, whether they are employers or employees, are going to have to adjust to this reality. We were simply not brought up thinking this way and now, the fact is, we have no choice.
What the employer should consider;
– Give employees the opportunity to keep learning and stay fresh so they can continue to make a significant contribution
– Adjust employee’s job descriptions , even slightly, to reflect where they are in life. Consider when a young parent has to leave at 5:00 p.m. to get to daycare, where before children they were at the office until all hours. The employee is still valuable but expectations had to shift given where they are in life. Have an older employee that travels 60% of the time? Maybe it can be reduced to 45 or 50% if that is what would be better for the employee. Given technology, maybe some of the work can be done remotely. Travel is exhausting and for some, not sustainable given how much they travel whereas a little bit less travel might be perfect.
– Hire the over 50 crowd! They come with tremendous experience, they will always show up to work and they will be more loyal than the younger crowd since they don’t want to look for a job again. They are motivated to ‘make it work‘.
What the employee should consider;
– Stay current! Keep up with industry knowledge, best practices and your professional network.
– Be a mentor/coach for juniors. Be the person that others go to given your years of experience
– Don’t behave “tired” – maintain a youthful spirit! The over 50 crowd (from what I am told…) can get testy at times…financial pressures with kids in college at super high costs, concerns with aging parents, job uncertainty…this needs to be managed in such a way that bosses and colleagues don’t have to live it too.
The good news is, we are living longer! The less good news is, we have not properly aligned the workforce yet. Time for both sides to embrace this new reality.