I had the opportunity to attend and present at the Imaging Network Group INg in April which always includes a great session on “What keeps you up at night.” As you might expect, this is a forum on the sleep-depriving problems of print operations managers today, but it is held in a private setting where participants can speak their mind. The twin problems of paper supply and labor supply were echoed around the room. We continue to cover work-arounds for paper management, but labor supply is even more challenging.
Part of what makes labor a dicey subject is a propensity for misinformation and, ahem, lawsuits. Case in point, someone brought up the potential of hiring older workers and another brought up a bunch of reasons why that wasn’t a good option. Many of the reasons that came up were plain wrong and others could set you up for an age discrimination lawsuit if they were made in a more public forum or became a known part of your hiring policies. It’s called age discrimination. Beyond a concern for getting sued, there are a lot of reasons why hiring older workers could be your silver lining. Let’s bust some myths, but first, will they come back to work?
Reversing the Big Quit
Just a few short months ago, inflation and interest rates were low and the stock market was high. This made a lot of the over 50 crowd decide that their retirement savings were strong enough to support early retirement. Since Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, inflation is the highest in 30 years and the stock market has taken a big hit (which some might deem a necessary correction. That means investment accounts took a hit too. No big deal if you have time to leave your money invested, but for those “big-quitters” living on their retirement savings, it puts quite a ding in their lifestyle. Now would be good time to lure some of those recently retired, experienced workers back into the fold. You may not get a better chance.
Busting the Myths About Older Employees
Some of the things you might think about older workers, need a rethink. First is the idea that they won’t stay in the job. Research indicates that fewer older workers leave their jobs within two years than those aged 25 to 34 – by a wide margin. If you are hiring back retired workers who have experience in your field, that benefit is compounded by requiring less training. Even those who don’t have the specific job experience you are seeking may bring a level of critical thinking, professionalism and general work knowledge that younger hires may not have.
Then there’s the cost factor, and it’s important to look at the complete picture. There is cost benefit to workers who stay in the job longer. A revolving door of employees is expensive from a recruiting and training perspective. From a pure compensation perspective, experienced workers who have been on the job for many years are typically paid more than those who just came through the door – whatever their age. It’s also true that new hires are paid for the job they are hired to do – whatever their age. That means that you may not be hiring older workers at the rate of pay that they were making before they retired. You may be recruiting them for a completely different job (and pay rate.) Many older workers just want to supplement their retirement earnings and stay active. They may value a flexible schedule and part-time status more than top pay. This also addresses another cost consideration – benefits. There is concern that hiring older workers will skew health insurance and other costs. However, many part-time workers are not eligible for these benefits.
Building your silver lining
You know what else costs money? Overtime. With some companies reporting that 30-40 labor requirements is being covered with overtime hours, labor costs are rocketing up. And overtime turns into burn-out which turns into more sick time which puts more overtime pressure on the rest of the crew. There is a bias that older workers get sick more often, but research shows that older workers also take fewer days off, than their younger counterparts.
When it comes to older workers, value the ones you have and don’t overlook opportunities to hire more. Consider building a flexible base of contract and part-time older workers that won’t put a strain on your benefits packages. Create flex schedules with fewer hours per day, or fewer days per week that are attractive for workers and lower, or eliminate reliance on overtime. This may include positions in time-sensitive positions such as print operations, sales support and client-services. It can include intergenerational job (and knowledge) sharing programs. For outward facing roles, keep in mind that many customers feel more confident dealing with older, experienced employees. And if you think that grandma and grandpa don’t understand tech and social media, think again. Some of them have more followers than you.
If you want to attract older workers, check out the AARP Employer Pledge. Signers have access to a jobs board that has become increasingly active in the past few months. AARP is also a good source of information for attracting and retaining older works.
Don’t let old thinking drive you away from a potential solution to some of your hiring problems (or set you up for an age discrimination lawsuit.) A silver-haired workforce might be just what you need right now.