3 Ways Hiring Older Workers Creates a Competitive Advantage


Karen Warnemuende

Global Vice President

Is it time to expand the scope of diversity initiatives? We often think about diversity in terms of race and gender, or increasingly in terms of socioeconomic background and neurodiversity, but what about age? People in the third act of their career have a huge amount to offer, and their wealth of skills, knowledge, and experience can give organizations a significant competitive advantage.

The good news is that organizations are already starting to look at older workers in a new light. The pandemic saw attitudes toward older workers evolve, as sectors faced an urgent need to access talent that could hit the ground running. The healthcare industry is a great example of an area that turned to large numbers of older workers – including those who had left the industry for retirement – for high-quality, flexible support during tough times.

I believe we should be building on these changing perceptions. When we embrace the skills and potential of older workers, everyone wins – companies, workers, and the economy. In this blog, I take a closer look at the ways older workers can boost competitive advantage.

1. Older workers can help you to expand fast.

I often meet with senior talent leaders during periods of intense, accelerated growth. This is an exciting time for their business, but it can mean they are faced with a tsunami of talent needs. In this situation, older workers can hit the ground running. As the most experienced sector of the workforce, they offer deep knowledge and the ability to add a high level of expertise quickly. Despite this, a 2019 study found that candidates over 50 are up to three times less likely to be selected for an interview. Smart organizations know there is an opportunity here and are already wooing these sometimes overlooked workers who offer decades of hard-wired knowledge.

2. Older workers bring unteachable experience.

A diverse blend of experiences drives innovation, and a company needs workers of every age group to flourish. However, older workers offer something unique and unteachable – decades of rich lived experience and development that has honed their critical thinking skills and decision-making abilities. This complex expertise and knowledge of overcoming industry challenges is something that can’t be bought or taught. We’ve already established successful retiree programs for a number of our clients – allowing them to draw on flexible insights from their retired workforce – and they have enjoyed exceptional results, but it’s not just an organization’s previous workforce that can deliver big things. Talent communities made up of older workers outside of these specific pools can also offer significant benefits – including mentoring skills and access to wide industry networks.

3. Older workers deliver on flexibility.

Many workers who are in the later years of their career, or who have already officially retired, are searching for a healthy work-life balance. They may be seeking part-time work or work for only part of the year, and this can make them a strong addition to contingent talent pools. For organizations that are looking for project expertise or for flexible support to meet ebbs and flows of demand, older workers can be an incredible resource, and this fluid approach allows workers to enjoy meaningful work, balanced with ample downtime. The pandemic has also seen some older workers – particularly in IT or healthcare – looking to reignite their careers on a part-time basis. These successful deployments of previous retirees have also gone a long way to reducing concerns over deteriorated skills or poor tech engagement, and this group has demonstrated how institutional knowledge, work experience, and a mature perspective can deliver exceptional results.

By 2030, one-fifth of all US residents will be older than 65, based on information from the US Census Bureau. However, despite the value older workers add and despite the efforts of forward-thinking organizations and recruiters, there is still work to do. 61% of older workers have seen or experienced discrimination in the workplace, according to a study by AARP. Organizations, recruiters, and talent organizations must work together to change this picture and embrace the potential that all older candidates and workers have to offer. We partner with companies around the world to break down unjust barriers to work through our Equity@Work initiative. Visit our website to find out how you can get involved or get in touch to talk about expanding your access to diverse talent.


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