I’m 55. Will You Still Hire Me?
Illustration: Eric W
Articles - 5 min read
Published on September 24, 2021

I’m 55. Will You Still Hire Me?

Age bias is already a major challenge. Plus, the future of work is increasingly remote. Does that mean that tech-savvy younger workers are favored over older hires? How can we help the older generation re-enter a new workforce reality?

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Jillian Wong
Contributing Talent

 

It’s official. The world’s labour force is entering its twilight years.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a quarter of the US labour force is estimated to be aged 55 and above by 2024. The segment of older workers will also rise in most EU countries to 55% of the overall workforce by 2030. In Singapore, the labour sentiment is similar; 40% of the workforce is forecasted to be aged 50 and above by 2030. Some countries are already raising retirement ages to provide older workers with more opportunities to carry on working if they wish to do so.

But, are companies willing to hire older workers in an increasingly remote workforce?

 

Age & Prejudice

While it is true that wisdom and experience come with age, getting on in years can bring some form of trepidation to some, especially if they are making a return to the workforce. And their fears are not unfounded.

Firstly, age bias is real. Most believe that older workers come with high salary tags, and that younger workers can do the same job equally well at a fraction of the pay or probably even faster. Furthermore, senior workers over 55 are too close to retirement age for comfort. As such, companies may be reluctant to invest time and resources in training them; preferring to groom someone younger with a longer longevity for career advancement.

Secondly, age stereotypes often take the form of skewed or inaccurate impressions of older workers. Many organizations assume that older workers are resistant to change and unable to keep up with the more tech-savvy younger colleagues, who are adept at social media and require little or no training in the field of digital technology. What’s worse, in an increasingly remote work environment, many believe that older hires will neither be able to keep up with nor blend into the trend of remote work.

The fact is: we are all thrown into the eventuality of remote work at the same time due to the pandemic. Regardless of individual age, experience or tech-savviness, none of us was fully prepared for a future of remote work accelerated by the coronavirus.

A recent survey of professionals commissioned by Smartsheet for example, found that despite being more tech-savvy, over 90% of young Generation Z and Millennial workers had difficulty working from home as a result of the pandemic.

But this isn’t to say that the older generation of workers have it any better. Truth be told, according to Bloomberg, the number of workers over the age of 55 has plummeted down by 2 million since the start of the pandemic. There can be many reasons for this phenomenon. Belt-tightening measures in corporations may favor hiring a younger person at a cheaper rate over retaining a higher-salaried senior. Mid-level positions are restructured to attract younger workers who aren’t as well paid as their more experienced predecessors. With remote work becoming a norm, companies may prefer hiring younger, less expensive nomad workers instead of forking out a relocation package for an older peer from another city.

 

The Losing End

Older people are losing their jobs at a faster rate in comparison to the younger generation. If nothing is done to alleviate this, it can spell bad news for the economy. Leaders should be paying attention to retaining senior talents and how to leverage this group of workers who have decades of valuable experiences and skills under their belts - something that the younger generation of workers have yet to accomplish.

If you are an employer thinking that remote work revolves only around the younger generation, you will lose some really valuable and experienced talents.

Helping Older Hires Blend Into The Remote Workforce

When it comes to hiring, smart hirers know it’s never about the age. It’s about the experience and talents that one possesses. The reality is that this group of accomplished and competent job seekers come in the form of a more matured generation. The question is: How can we leverage this group of greying but gold workforce? Better yet, how can we help integrate them into the future of work?

Here are some ways in which companies can embrace the older talent pool into their remote workforce:

 

1. Recruit seasoned workers as independent consultants.

The beauty of older talents is that they come with a multitude of experiences in different industries. This makes them great contributors to companies looking for experienced business consultants to add professional value to a specific trade. 

2. Engage senior workers as life or business coaches to mentor young founders or entrepreneurs.

Senior workers have worked their way up their careers, often ending up in mid to senior management positions. Oftentimes, their experiences are invaluable to young entrepreneurs looking for real-world advice in growing their own setups.

3. Invite older hires to companies’ leadership programs to mentor and groom younger leaders.

What better way to fuel succession planning than to have wiser, older talents mentor your high-potential employees? Older talents have so much to offer in terms of management skills, communication aptitude, business acumen and empathy. These soft skills are precious commodities in cross-generational mentoring and knowledge transfer.

4. Hire more matured workers on projects that will allow them to really focus on their expertise.

Consider a scenario where you may need a skilled lawyer for an acquisition project. This is an opportunity to hire on-demand the niche skills of an experienced senior M&A lawyer where he can really focus on his craft for the project on hand.

5. Employ older, experienced workers to help SMEs and startups.

This pool of older talents has amassed a wealth of business acumen and experiences, having been through cyclical seasons and having held various roles in their careers. Their experiences will serve them well in helping SMEs and startups.

6. Refresh and add finesse to your multigenerational team.

We are now in a unique space where multi generations are present in the workplace. From Baby Boomers to Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z, this age diversity can be both exciting and challenging. What’s great is that it creates an environment for the different generations to learn from each other. Younger employees pick up business intuition from the older generation and the older employees get reverse mentoring from younger counterparts on utilizing tech skills to manage work in a remote space. These teams may spin off into problem-solving and talent-coaching groups or even evolve into  leadership roles within the team.

A remote workforce isn’t just about the younger generation. It’s meant for everyone to adapt to, and if ‘work-from-anywhere’ is here to stay, then we all have a part to play in helping everyone through this unprecedented time.

Last words: I’m Not Old, I’m A Wisdom Worker

Quite simply, being 55 and above isn’t just an “older worker”. Rather, the term ‘wisdom worker’ may be more apt. Having wisdom workers in your multigenerational team will be one of your organization’s strongest competitive advantages. That is, if companies learn to leverage on their wisdom and unique talent offerings. When that happens, everyone wins.

Having said that, here's a question for you: When I’m 55, will you hire me?

Are you a mature, senior job seeker excited about your next career adventure? What are your thoughts on staying on or even returning to the workforce? Share with us on our social media platforms.

This article may also interest you: Thinking of going back to the office?

You may also like to browse through our e-shop for some ‘conversation-starter’ tees when you next return to the office.

 

There’s a better way to grow. And it’s not the traditional way.

It’s about rethinking traditional employment archetypes. Can we progress from an economy built on full time employment habitually enslaved by unemployment fears, to one where individuals have greater autonomy and are self motivated to do work that inspires them? And as a result,  benefit the economy as a whole?

You can’t own full time employees. But you can build a winning team with talent management companies. As businesses demand more, external talents are emerging as the sure forerunners of an agile workforce. At Chance Upon, we partner businesses to get a head start over competition by creating collaborative work between companies and the right talents.

Hire anytime, hire anywhere. Hire exceptional.

References

Mitra Toossi and Elka Torpey, Older workers: Labor force trends and career options, U.S. Bureau Of Labour Statistics, (May 2017)

Audrey Le Guével, Europe’s ageing population comes with a silver lining, International Labour Organization, (1 Oct 2018)

Josh Bersin and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, The Case for Hiring Older Workers, Harvard Business Review, (26 Sep 2019)

Zaria Gorvett, How elders can reinvigorate the workforce, BBC, (15 Sep 2019)

Lori A. Trawinski, Leveraging the value of an age-diverse workforce, SHRM Foundation Executive Briefing

Press Release, Over 90% of Young Workers Having Difficulty Working from Home, Survey Finds, Smartsheet, (22 Apr 2020)

Conor Sen, Jobs recovery is leaving older workers behind, Bloomberg Opinion, (9 Feb 2021)

Jack Kelly, Older Workers Are Being Pushed Out Of The Job Market, Forbes, (16 Feb 2021)

aging population
age bias
hiring
aging workforce
older workers
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