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August 08, 2014

Why Older Adults Often Make the Best Workers

Older adults are choosing to stay at their jobs longer, but they aren’t just remaining employed for their own good—older adults are often extremely valuable to the companies that employ them. Yet, despite this, many older workers face age discrimination and have a hard time finding new work late in their careers.

For starters, there are several stereotypes surrounding older workers. They aren’t as creative. They’re slower, leading to reduced productivity. They’re more expensive to employ and have difficulty accepting change. However, all of those stereotypes are simply that: unfounded stereotypes. In fact, Peter Cappelli, author of the 2010 book “Managing the Older Worker” decided to investigate these stereotypes and see how they actually held up in the real world.

What he found is there is actually much to be valued in older employees and little to hold up the stereotypes.

5 Characteristics of Older Adults That Make Them Valuable Employees

  • Stronger job performance: In his research, Cappelli found every aspect of job performance improves as workers age—not only that, but the comparison wasn’t even close.
  • More assertive leadership: Older workers aren’t afraid to step into leadership positions and assert their authority. Many older adults have also probably held leadership positions in their past work experience, making them well-poised to take on the task.
  • Ability to be detail-oriented: Cappelli’s research showed older adults scored high on their ability to handle detail-oriented tasks. Younger workers entering the workplace are generally thought of as being part of “the distraction generation,” due to their fondness for multitasking, which means older workers may have an edge up with their focus level.
  • Increased experience and wisdom: Years in the workplace have helped older adults to know how to handle certain situations. They’ve fine-tuned the skills necessary for working well with others and handling unnecessary drama. They know when to ask for help and when to figure it out on their own.
  • Extensive connections: Their years in the workplace have helped older adults to accumulate an extensive list of connections, both in their field and beyond. 

The bottom line is employers should be assessing the worker and not the age attached to the worker. Failing to do so could cause them to miss out on a high quality employee who still has a lot to offer.

What stereotypes about older workers have you heard? In what ways have you seen older workers prove them wrong?

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