We continue to hear about companies struggling to fill open positions.
It’s true there is a skills gap in the marketplace. But, I don’t think that explains the whole story. The pervasiveness of technology has escalated the pace of change in every aspect of our lives, including the world of work. The result is multiple areas of dysfunction. I’ve already explored the outdated thinking that workers must be located at home office in Global Mobile Workers – A Solution to the Talent Gap. Now, I want to explore yet another piece of obsolete thinking.
The Youth Obsession is Unsustainable
All of the Founders that I heard speak about talent at Web Summit focused primarily on one demographic – Millennials. In tech these days, people in their 20’s are worshiped.
“Young people are just smarter,” Mark Zuckerberg infamously said back in 2007.
Besides being fundamentally untrue, it ignores the demographics of the labor force. There simply aren’t enough Millennials to staff the current workforce.
Even more importantly, the workforce demographics reflect the consumer demographics. Ignoring roughly a third of the workforce is simply bad business.
Yet, tech companies are doing just that. Everyone is competing for the same talent segment. The trend towards workers becoming obsolete in their 50’s is simply unsustainable.
The result of this thinking is a large pool of extremely experienced, out-of-work people in one of the hottest job markets in the world.
The bias in favor of younger workers begins with the job posting. Ads for “recent grads” or “digital natives” telegraphs that seasoned professionals need not apply. When you move on to the interview stage the code word is “overqualified.”
Over 50 is Where It’s At
Companies are missing the boat on this one. Contrary to popular belief, workplace vitality peaks around age 57, according to an Israeli researcher’s study.
“Workers’ vitality fuels the success of the organization, and the fact that professional vitality is preserved and actually rises well into one’s 50s indicates that organizations investing in this aspect of the workplace will be able to benefit from productive workers for many years.”
Companies often overlook the wealth of knowledge, experience and skills that equips seasoned workers to contribute. These workers have ccrucial business relationships and industry contacts that cannot be recorded in a manual. And, life experience is critical in understanding how to implement and execute on new innovations and products. This type of wisdom comes from hard-learned lessons that often comes from living and learning through mistakes.
The assumption that older workers will cost more is also outdated thinking. Because of changes in how companies compensate their employees, with pay being tied more closely to performance than to tenure, older workers do not cost significantly more than their younger colleagues. In fact, older workers tend to be more engaged than younger workers, which contributes directly to a company’s bottom line. Disrupting The Way We Think About Older Workers
With the cost of unplanned turnovers running between $7,400 and $31,400 per employee, depending on the industry, greater stability translates into bottom-line security for companies with a higher census of mature workers.
The stereotype that seasoned workers are inflexible and resistant to change or acquiring new technical skills is unproven, and in my experience just wrong. When given the chance, the majority of them want to embrace new technology and new skills.
Entrepreneurship Isn’t Just for the Young
Bloomberg Beta in a study on patterns of business founders identified that 38% of founders were actually over 40. A study, funded by the Kauffman Foundation, found that the typical successful founder was 40 years old, with at least 6-10 years of industry experience. Twice as many successful entrepreneurs are more than 50 as under 25. More experienced leaders tend to have deeper networks, know-how managing teams, and better business savvy and skills for delivering on the vision.
Fill the Gap with Talent That Get’s It
So talent hunters. Don’t be scared off by a two-page CV, with lots of capability. Don’t assume that seasoned talent is more interested in the salary than the opportunity to make a difference.
REMEMBER – Global Mobile Workers De Facto Get Technology – We’ve Made a Lifestyle Of It.