Five top tips for hiring an older worker
If you haven’t considered hiring an older worker to your start-up, it may be worth switching your mindset.
Not only is the power of the “grey dollar” growing, but an ageing population is making it harder for businesses to get all the skills they need from a youthful, ambitious workforce.
In a bid to break down barriers, the Federal Government announced last week that it is to offer a $1,000 bonus to 10,000 employers who recruit and retain a worker aged 50 years or over for more than three months.
Sophie Macdonald, co-founder of Queensland HR firm Skye Recruitment, says that older workers can bring multiple benefits to a start-up.
"I believe in a meritocracy and hiring based on the best available skills, but there are certainly many things that an older employee can offer that many businesses don't consider," she says.
"They bring a stabilising influence and experience to a workplace but also, more importantly, they bring an understanding of other workplaces and cultures."
"A less experienced employee may not realise how good or bad their employer is as they haven't got much to compare it with. But older workers understand what makes a good workplace and bring enjoyment and passion for their industry to a business. That has to be a good thing for any employer."
So, how should you go about recruiting an older worker? Here are five top tips:
1. Think flexibly
If you are thinking of hiring an older worker, don’t automatically assume that you should employ them on the standard nine to five, five days a week, permanent basis.
“If you bring in an older worker, consider using them as a pinch hitter, rather than just another employee,” advises HRanywhere founder Martin Nally.
“Older workers won’t necessarily want to work full-time and they have other interests in their lives rather than just building their careers. Give them a well-defined role on a flexible basis and they will add value.”
“We are in a new world of work. If you try to employ an older worker on a full-time basis, they made resist it. Be judicious with your flexibility and think of bringing them in for certain clearly-defined projects, rather than as a full-timer.”
2. Communicate their role clearly
If you’re running a new business, it’s likely that you have a small team who hope to rapidly progress their careers as your company grows.
Bringing in an older, more experienced people may cause ructions if you’re not careful.
“If you’re not careful, you can demotivate your team,” says Nally. “If you have people who are looking to step up in their careers, they may feel gazumped and you may lose talent.”
“I’ve worked with a business where an experienced worker has come in from a competitor and the staff felt threatened. They had to sit them down and say that his role was to advise and be a mentor – he wasn’t after their jobs.”
“Be open and transparent about the new worker’s role. Set out to your staff that they won’t be at the company in the long-term, but they will be a useful mentor and experienced head who will guide you through a certain project or period in your business’ life.”
3. Focus on goals, not time
In general, you should focus on your staff’s output, rather than just the hours they spend in the office or warehouse.
This is especially true for older workers.
“Engage these workers on outcomes rather than the time they spend in your business,” Nally advises.
“If you have a clearly-defined goal that they can deliver on, they will invariably add value.”
“Ideally, the older worker will provide a sense of confidence to your workplace that will prevent schoolboy errors being committed on a certain project.”
4. Be aware of lifestyle differences
Be aware of the different goals and ambitions of an older worker. If you’re on the verge of retirement, or have already departed the world of full-time employment, you are unlikely to have the same aspirations as a young go-getter.
“The over-50s don’t have as many financial pressures as younger people and they are less likely to have lots of young kids running around them at home,” says Nally.
“Try to craft innovative ways of structuring the working day to suit this kind of lifestyle. If you can team the value older workers add along with their lifestyle, that’s a fabulous mix.”
5. Balance your workplace
If your workplace is heavily skewed towards youth, it may be beneficial to have a seasoned veteran around, if only to provide a more representative view of the marketplace.
“We have a multi-generational marketplace, so if your people are all of a similar age, you are potentially missing out on the insights an older person can provide,” says Nally.
“It’s sensible to have balance within your workforce. Older people are consumers too.”