We are told that it is a young person’s world. But is it? Is it possible that the commonly held wisdom that young people not only learn faster but are easier to manage is a myth?
In an article published recently by RetireInStyleBlog on Blogcritics, a comment was made by a man who planned to work until the he could no longer do the job he was hired to do. He had always exercised, worked long and hard at his job, and was still in very good shape mentally . Because it is a young person’s world, he was forced out of his job. Or that is what he believed. Of course he is bitter, but what can be done?
In a study done by Louisiana State University on 2005 the question was asked, “Who is more willing to make changes to benefit the organization, the young or the old?” Surprisingly, this is what they discovered:
March 11, 2005 – Older workers are more inclined and interested in making changes to benefit the organization than younger workers, says a researcher at Louisiana State University.
Conventional wisdom says that technology is the province of the young and that older workers are negatively affected by constant changes in the computerization of business functions.
These stereotypes about aging employees are simply not true and prevent companies from benefiting from their knowledge and experience, says Dr. Tracey Rizzuto, assistant professor of psychology.
“There is some research that shows older workers may not be as quick in learning new technology skills as younger people, but this study shows the commitment and willingness to learn is stronger among the older workers,” Rizzuto said.
The work environment has changed a lot in the last six years. Computers are not so new and the aging workplace has learned a lot in the last few years. But human behavior has not. What was true then regarding willingness to learn new skills is still true. The value of the older employee can be seen clearly in a study like this. Because of age discrimination, older people are the first to be fired and the last to be hired. Employers who feel young people are the answer to all their needs are overlooking the one best thing about hiring a person with more years of experience: Those people have the ability to fit in better because they understand the need to do so and are willing to work hard at learning new skills that will benefit the employer.
I overheard a manager for a state agency talking about hiring for low-level jobs. People in retirement or with master’s degrees were applying because they are willing to do what is needed to get their foot in the door. Getting a job is very hard and people are going to start or, in the case of the retiree, go back to work, at the very bottom of the pay scale. The worry for managers is that such people are not going to stay. So the question is: Are you going to hire an older or even retired person? The answer might be “yes” because that person may be willing to work hard at a new skill and in the end may fit into the workplace better than ever imagined. They see the benefits of making the organization they work for better. Or that is what the LSU study suggested.
Note: You might also want to read “Age is Just a Number“. This article from the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology is very revealing. Even the perception that older workers are more costly is challenged.