Message to Employers – WAKE UP!

By Neil Patrick

I have been distracted over recent days by the astonishing employment, social and economic news from around the world that I felt I should share. Consequently, one of my mission objectives of tackling the injustices of ageism in the workplace has been neglected.

So I will aim to try and rebalance things over the next few days with a lot more practical material to try to move the ageism topic up the agenda. If you are here, you probably agree that ageism is a major worldwide generational issue and its effect is being hugely compounded by the mounting global economic and business crises.

Employers’ attitudes are the key of course, so what follows is for them. If you are an employer, HR manager or recruiter, this is my message to you.

Don't be prejudiced against job candidates who are middle-aged , approaching or even past retirement age. They are a much bigger potential asset than you realize.

If you don’t believe me, here are my top 10 benefits of hiring mature workers:

They have a strong work ethic
For older workers, years of working have programmed their minds and bodies so that they almost automatically get up on a Monday morning fully expecting to spend at least the next five days in productive work. Compare this to young employees of whom a significant percentage will not even turn up on a Monday morning because of ‘sickness’, childcare problems or just plain laziness.

They’ve learned things by being there even if they’ve not actually done them
Unlike younger staff, they have been able to observe years and years of their colleagues’ and bosses’ triumphs and failures. This has taught them lots. Not least is that having seen more in their lives gives them more to apply creatively - and let’s face it, creativity isn’t really about Einstein-like breakthroughs, it’s about taking other ideas and applying them. And the more you’ve seen before, the more ideas you have to draw upon. Just because they cannot always show these things on their CV’s doesn’t mean these learnings aren’t massively valuable to employers.

They know how to communicate clearly
Older workers were educated in a different time and before computers took over the world. Their ability to communicate face to face, on the telephone, or in writing is typically much greater than with younger staff. Phone text messaging, ‘friending’ people (when did that become a verb?!) on Facebook, or following them on Twitter may be seen as a ‘skill’, but it isn’t communication in a way that has much real value to an employer. Communication skills appear on just about every job specification and effective communication in any medium is still about empathy and the application of critical faculties, not clicking on icons.

They know that the customer is king
Almost whatever their career has involved, they’ve dealt with customers. Not necessarily paying buyers, but customers nonetheless. The term usually used for this is ‘stakeholders’. Even if they were not in a commercial environment, they’ve had to satisfy someone to ensure they kept their job. It’s odd that younger people often take a little time to latch onto this simple and fundamentally important point and to conduct themselves accordingly. Older workers on the other hand know it instinctively.

They don’t have to be told what to do, or in what order
After all those years of experience, they have developed a sixth sense for prioritising things. We all have too many demands on our time in a job, so it’s critical that we can distinguish what’s important and what really isn’t. This is a key skill that only comes with maturity, self confidence and experience.

The have an innate appreciation of risk
All human endeavours involve some form of risk. We become more attuned to this as we mature and develop strategies that minimise it. This isn’t fear, it’s a reasoned assessment, weighing the upside gains against the downside risks and acting accordingly. With maturity, our actions are instinctively balanced with risk assessment as an influence. Remember how when you were a child you believed you were indestructible? Or think about why it is that your car insurance premiums fall as you get older…

They can listen as well as they speak
‘I have one mouth and two ears and I use them in that proportion’ That’s not my quotation, but it contains real wisdom. Listening skills not only enable better decisions, they reflect an appreciation of what other people are saying and that in turn enhances older workers’ ability to show empathy. For any business, good customer relationships are built upon the ability to listen and empathise rather than tell.

They don’t panic in a crisis
We learn as we go through life, that often things just don’t work out how we intended or expected. But with maturity, we see things in perspective and therefore react more calmly when this happens. Older workers have seen things go wrong so many times before. Their calmness under pressure means that they can devise a new course of action faster and limit the damage more effectively.

Their egos are not out of control
We’ve all met him or her. The young thruster who’s so fired up by their own sense of self importance and over-eagerness to prove their worth that they rub everyone up the wrong way. Their mission is called ‘me’, not ‘us’. Many organisations do little to control these individuals; such behaviour is mislabelled as enthusiasm. It’s not and it is damaging to everyone. Funnily enough all the people I’ve ever encountered with this affliction were under 40…

They no longer want to conquer the world; they simply want to do a good job
This follows on from the point above. The older worker isn’t aspiring to become the next big thing, regardless of the damage they create along the way. Their satisfaction comes from doing a good job for their team, their department, their corporation. Older workers are not on a personal mission.

Moreover most of what they know cannot be learned in a classroom. Regardless of their professional qualifications, they all have hugely valuable experience from what some call the ‘school of life’ and that’s the most effective learning place in existence.

If you agree with only half of what I’ve said above, that’s still a pretty powerful argument for hiring older workers.

You can help change things right now by sharing this information with your boss, your HR partners and external recruiters. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it started with one stone…


  1. Neil,

    This is a great article and you make compelling points. The one idea that stood out to me was this: "Just because they cannot always show these things on their CV’s doesn’t mean these learnings aren’t massively valuable to employers." This is such a key point. There is so much value wrapped up in decades of just being on the job that is difficult to articulate. To a business that needs help, this is invaluable. Thanks!

  2. Hi Melani,

    Thank you so much for this feedback. Let's hope that the power of the internet helps the message get through to those that need to believe this and start changing their outlook...

    Kind regards


  3. I think my essay, admittedly very poorly titled in retrospect, is very apropos:

    1. Agreed David..and I'm happy to include your link ;-)