By Barbara Jaworksi
Why is it that baby boomers, despite decades of experience, knowledge, work ethic and many skills, face so much discrimination by employers and prospective employers?
There are many myths about older workers that hiring managers buy into – sometimes without even realizing it.
And the worst part? They’re completely untrue.
For larger organizations that are facing a crunch between a high number of retiring workers and not enough skilled workers to replace them, it’s time for a reality check!
We’ve outlined the top ten important most persistent baby boomer myths. We encourage organizations to review them with staff.
Myth # 10: Older workers can’t keep up with – they have less energy and stamina.
Reality Check: Most senior executives are over 50 and, after many years climbing the corporate ladder, still put in long hours and cope well with high stress levels.
As a rule, older workers work just as hard as, if not harder than, their younger colleagues. Their experience and time management skills allow them to do the same amount of work in a shorter space of time.
Myth #9: Older workers aren’t flexible or adaptable. They resist change.
Reality Check: Older workers are just as adaptable once they understand the reason for the change.
They’re simply more likely to ask why. Boomers have likely experienced workplace changes that were abandoned mid-stream when they didn’t bring expected results. Better to have an employee that asks questions than one that lets things slide downhill unquestioned. Studies show that a younger worker can be just as “strong-willed” as an older worker.
Myth #8: Older workers can't or won't learn new skills.
Reality Check : Older workers have superior study habits and their accumulated experience actually lowers training costs.
Older workers are generally eager to learn new skills – especially technological skills. They want to keep pace with change.
Myth #7: Older workers don't stay on the job long.
Reality Check: Workers between 45 and 54 stay on the job twice as long as those 25 to 34, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) survey of workers over 40 found that 76 percent intend to keep working and earning after the traditional retirement age of 65.
Myth #6: Older workers take more sick days than younger workers.
Reality Check: Attendance records are actually better for older workers than for younger ones. In fact, according to Health Canada, 80 percent of all older workers have no chronic health problems.
Myth #5: Older workers have more accidents.
Reality Check: Older workers account for only eight percent of workplace injuries, according to the Canadian Centre for Occupation Health and Safety.
Statistically, older workers have lower accident rates than other groups – probably because experience has taught them not to take risks where workplace safety is concerned.
Myth #4: Older workers are more expensive.
Reality Check: The costs of more vacation time and pensions are often outweighed by low turnover among older workers, while higher turnover among other groups translates into recruiting, hiring, and training expenses.
And while individual health, disability and life insurance costs do rise slowly with age, they are offset by lower costs due to fewer dependents.
Overall, fringe benefits stay the same as a percentage of salary for all age groups.
Myth #3: Older workers are less productive.
Reality Check: Productivity is not a function of age. Mature workers produce higher quality work, which can result in a significant cost savings for employers.
Stories abound of highly committed older workers finding others’ potentially costly mistakes regarding everything from misspelling of client names to pricing
errors and accounting mistakes.
Myth #2: Older workers are not as innovative as younger workers.
Reality Check: Eighty per cent of the most workable and worthwhile production ideas
are produced by employees over 40.
Myth #1: Older workers don’t possess the same level of tech skills as younger workers.
Reality Check: Baby boomers have been working with technology since the 80s.
They may not be as tech savvy as the under 25 crowd, but they’re catching up. In fact, baby boomers are the fastest growing demographic on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.
Outside of those professions where a high level of tech expertise is essential (like IT), most employees only need to master the technology needed to do their job. And, as we’ve seen in myth #3, older employees are eager to master new skills and often have solid technical backgrounds.
Savvy organizations see the value of older workers and look past the stereotypes.
These businesses understand the workforce is aging and that the talent shortage is about to heat up as the economy recovers and are doing what they can to attract, retain and engage baby boomers.