September 25, 2016

Business Brief

Are older workers worth the bother?

Their health insurance costs are higher, right? And they don’t need to work so they’re less committed, right? Those are among the conventional-wisdom drawbacks to hiring older workers. Then what’s the argument for hiring them?

According to some recent studies, there are plenty of good reasons to hire older workers, including that some of the perceived drawbacks just aren’t real, according to the studies done at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Center for Human Resources.

For instance:

  • “Because of declining health, older workers cost more than younger ones.” While older workers may take longer to recover from injuries, studies show that they use fewer sick days on the whole than their younger counterparts. And older workers’ healthcare costs are actually less because most no longer have small children as dependents on their health care plans.
  • “Productivity and performance drop as workers get older.” When it comes to job performance, older workers frequently outdo their younger colleagues, deal better with customers and have less absenteeism, less turnover and superior interpersonal skills.
  • “As people near retirement age, they have a ‘go to hell’ attitude about work.” The studies show the opposite to be true. Those who have worked past retirement age became more, rather than less, engaged and satisfied with their jobs. And in a study conducted in 2006, 60% of the 308 HR managers surveyed said that older workers are more reliable, and 59% said older workers have a stronger work ethic than younger ones.
  • “Older workers are more resistant to change and learning.” To the contrary, much of the reason older workers stick with their jobs is that they want to learn new things and avoid becoming stagnant. In the studies, older workers ranked “job challenge and learning” as a top source of satisfaction with their jobs.
  • “Older workers who stay in the workforce keep younger ones from getting jobs.” The belief is that older workers tend to jam up the career ladder for younger ones, and in general are a detriment to the success of younger workers. Except that when more people retire, governments and business are forced to finance rising pension costs and other retiree expenses, resulting in increased taxes and less money available to build businesses and hire and pay newer workers. In short, the idea that there is a fixed number of jobs is a false one.

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