For fast-growing companies, it’s never easy to find the right employee – someone with experience and skills, but also the flexibility to fit into a constantly evolving environment. If you’ve started your search with conventional hires like recent grads and mid-level professionals, you may be looking in the wrong place.
‘Silver surfers’ could be what you need. Not quite like in The Intern, where Robert De Niro’s 70-year-old character interns at an e-commerce fashion startup as part of a senior citizen program, these are workers aged 50+ who bring with them reams of experience, knowledge and skills. Plus, there are plenty of them – in the US and the UK they make up one third of the workforce. Worldwide, the size of the workforce group aged 45-64 is projected to increase over 40% from 2010 to 2030.
Although reports do show lingering prejudices against older workers in the business world, making the effort to overcome these can have significant returns. Here are five reasons why this untapped talent pool could be the making of your team.
1. ‘Been there, done that, got the T-shirt’
Their experience means silver surfers have strong judgment skills that can benefit your firm; in fact, psychological studies demonstrate that people older than 60 make more accurate decisions, as they have stronger ‘crystallized intelligence’, or accumulated experience.
Beyond specific skills, silver surfers also possess ‘meta-competences’ – communication and organizational skills, punctuality, dependability and confidence – all those things that turn a colleague from unreliable nightmare to dream employee.
2. They fit in easily
Research shows that American ‘Baby Boomers’ have held 11-12 jobs by the time they’re 50. That means they’re extremely adaptable and know exactly how to fit into a new role, how to research and understand a new market, and how to come to grips with a new product.
3. ‘Buy one get one free’
Well, not literally, but you do get a wealth of contacts built up over decades of working. This means that not only does your company get an employee with a solid skills base, but also access to a number of new opportunities. This is particularly crucial for fast-growing businesses, which don’t always have the time to build and nurture relationships from scratch themselves – silver surfers can offer access to influencers, clients and other businesses.
4. Spreading the word
Older workers are ideally positioned to train your younger, less experienced hires. Employees who have gone through all the ups and downs of several decades of working life can be pillars of support for your colleagues, whether it’s helping on soft skills like negotiation or communication, or the nitty-gritty sector-specific know-how. This is key for fast-growing businesses looking to expand their capabilities – research shows that most training returns on the investment within one year, meaning that an older employee’s skills can have a team-wide positive impact within 12 months.
5. In it for the long run
Employers often wonder if it’s worth investing in employees who are nearing retirement age, but this worry is misplaced, with more and more people taking a phased approach to retirement instead of making a clean break. 62% of Americans aged 50+ no longer consider retirement as a moment when they’ll stop work immediately, but rather as a point where they’ll work part time or partially from home, or sometimes in contractual positions. This fits well into modern working patterns – as Regus studies reveal, almost half of global companies are moving to adopt flexible working.
This is a win-win situation for companies and employees alike. Your employees continue to earn money and stay in the loop, while your business still benefits from their experience and expertise – but at a reduced cost.