Ageism is a real thing. Many employers find the younger, fresh-out-of-school and up-to-date employees more attractive than those who have been in the workforce for decades. Hiring managers tend to assume that older candidates will be less creative, less productive, not as sharp mentally, and more expensive to employ than their younger counterparts—but these stereotypes are rarely backed by data. And despite age discrimination being illegal when it comes to employment, 64 percent of older job seekers say they have seen or experienced it, according to the AARP.
If you aren’t seriously considering applicants over the age of 40, not only can you be potentially opening your company up to a lawsuit, but—more importantly—you may be missing out on workers that represent the “gold standard” of employment.
Why the Future of the Workforce Is 40 and Older
Companies that actively recruit those in the 40+ demographic reap many benefits. Here are just a few that need to be pointed out:
They bring a treasure trove of experience. Midlife employees “can bring deep knowledge to the table, as well as well-honed interpersonal skills, better judgment than the less experienced and a more balanced perspective,” writes Ashton Applewhite in the New York Times. Over the years, they have amassed a treasure trove of workplace wisdom, as well as important soft skills like knowing how to get along with colleagues, problem-solve at work, and manage office politics. Career shifters, in particular, can bring a wide-ranging knowledge base and the eagerness to learn new skills.
You’ll gain incredibly loyal employees. Older workers are reliable, handle stress well, and are the most engaged of all workers when offered an opportunity to grow their professional skills, according to research conducted by Peter Cappelli, a management professor at the Wharton School of Business and co-author of “Managing the Older Worker.”
You can easily strike “gold” with women re-entering the workforce. Women over 40 who have been out of the workforce while they raised their now-teenage children can bring your company incredible talents—and they likely won’t be asking for maternity leave or blocks of time off to cover school vacations. “The rush to fill lunch boxes, beat the school bell, and make the afternoon circuit of games, dance lessons, and tutors is over,” writes Diane Kilgore, suggesting some of the benefits that mid-life professionals bring to the table. “Seasoned workers aren’t struggling with the home/work/life balance thing anymore,” she says, adding that “calm, older workers have the time and ability to focus on a job and do it well.” These workers are actually a “gold standard of employment.”
Maximize Mid-life Employee Performance via Mentorship
For career shifters, as well as women re-entering the workforce, offering mentorship opportunities is key to maximizing the productivity of workers surpassing 40. That’s because an effective mentorship program demonstrates to your employees that you value them and support their professional and personal growth.
An added plus—these efforts increase retention rates. “Mentoring is one of the best methods to confirm that your employees feel supported by your organization,” says Valerie Martinelli, an HR and management consultant.
Diversity in the workplace doesn’t just mean racial diversity but also gender and age diversity. The expertise older workers bring to the office complements recent graduates’ academic knowledge, and those benefits more than outweigh the challenges that may possibly come with a diverse workforce.
So, the next time a resume crosses your desk and the college graduation date gives you pause, think about the many benefits an experienced “40+” employee can contribute to the workforce. Not only will they bring skills gained from decades of employment, but they can also provide reliability and balance that your team might currently be lacking.